It was no surprise to see Showtime's Matt Blank and Robert Greenblatt looking like they were enjoying themselves Friday afternoon during their executive Q&A sesh. Any way you look at it, Showtime is on a roll. They're not getting the
"Why aren't you as cool as HBO?" questions lobbed at them at TCA anymore. Think of the programming assets Showtime has these days: "Weeds," "Dexter," "The Tudors," "Californication," "The L Word," "The Secret Diary of a Call Girl," "Brotherhood," "This American Life," "Penn and Teller's Bullshit!" and "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union."
Greenblatt reinforced the cabler's Big Mo with his rundown of the paybox's programming highlights during the past year, capped by Thursday by the best drama series Emmy nom nabbed by "Dexter." He also showed off clips of two intriguing half-hours to come, "Nurse Jackie" (pictured left), starring Edie Falco as an unconventional nurse at a Gotham hospital; and the Toni Collette-John Corbett starrer "The United States of Tara" (pictured right), the brainchild of Steven Spielberg and Diablo Cody about a suburban mom with multiple personalities.
Greenblatt noted that Showtime's top buzz-getters, "Dexter" and "Weeds," are in a contest for bragging rights as the cabler's highest-rated shows. "Dexter" set a new high water mark for the feevee-er last September with its season two opener drawing more than 1 million viewers. "Weeds" has been smoking in its fourth season. Its June 16 debut brought in 1.35 million viewers for the premiere, and segs have been averaging a cume weekly rating of more than 3 million -- a ratings record by far for Showtime, Greenblatt assured the crowd.
"Dexter," of course, got a huge marketing push in February and March with its repurposing on CBS due to the writers strike -- a showcase that undoubtedly contributed to its Emmy traction. Greenblatt (pictured right) also noted that season sets of "Weeds" and "Dexter" and David Duchovny's "Californication" consistently rank high among the TV downloads on iTunes.
All of this heat has added up to an influx of more than 1 million new subscribers during the past 18 months. Showtime's sub base now stands at about 16 million. Not so long ago Showtime's former parent Viacom had its doubts about the premium channel biz, but "16 million subscribers is a very, very good business," Blank said.
"I can't tell you what it was like to be sitting in front of my hi-def TV watching the AFC play-off game (on CBS), the Patriots against Indianapolis, and to see three spots for a Showtime show," Blank said. "And then to be watching the Grammy Awards and to see five spots for a Showtime show. And then to be watching "Letterman" every night and, before Letterman every night, seeing a spot for "Dexter." That's the type of mass exposure and mass frequency that we never get the opportunity to have our shows receive. So I can't be anything but optimistic about what it's going to mean for the show next season."