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Showtime, CBS Execs Looking to Replicate DVD Magic With SVOD

6 Oct, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

When Fox canceled adult comedy “Arrested Development” in 2006 following three seasons, it gained cult status thereafter thanks in part to DVD sales. The quirky series returned seven years later for season four exclusively on Netflix.

In 2009, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the seventh season of popular anti-terrorist series “24” on DVD and Blu-ray Disc — a day after the network broadcast finale. It was the first time a major TV series had been released to retail channels at the conclusion of the broadcast season, instead of before the beginning of the next primetime season. 

Fox, which at the time had reportedly had sold nearly 8 million discs of “24,” starring Kiefer Sutherland, said physical media sales helped spur a then unknown social phenomena called binge viewing. Fox released the first season of “24” on DVD in 2002 ahead of the second season broadcast debut.

As executive producer on “24,” “Arrested Development,” “ER,” “The West Wing,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood,” David Nevins contends subscription streaming can replicate what packaged media did for jumpstarting consumer interest in serialized dramas that don’t necessarily resonate with wider broadcast audiences.

Speaking Oct. 6 at Mipcom in Cannes, France, Nevins, who is now president of Showtime Networks, said he has long favored programming that pushes creative limits — not ratings.

“They were always addictive shows that did very well in selling DVDs and aftermarkets,” Nevins said, adding that as SVOD proliferates globally, future demand for specialized dramas is growing.

“We feel our future is about owned-original content … that we can monetize around the world. It may not appeal to everybody, but people will pay money … every month to get ‘Ray Donovan,’ ‘The Affair,’ ‘Homeland.’ That’s now become … a very hot part of the market.

“As the guy who made shows that sold a lot of DVDs and not a ton of ratings, I’m now in the sweet spot and the right place at Showtime,” Nevins said.

Showtime in July launched a $10.99 monthly SVOD service restricted to the U.S. 

To get Showtime content distributed internationally is the responsibility of Armando Nuñez, president of CBS Global Distribution Group. Speaking at Mipcom, the executive said global expansion efforts by Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, in addition to regional players in different countries, have upped the need for specific content.

“There is a super demand for high-end premium content. It’s the kind of programming that not only drives viewership, it drives subscribers. It’s marketable, its promotable, and there’s not much of it in the world,” he said.

Nuñez said the current distribution ecosystem affords channels for nearly every form of content. He added that many of the premium TV series have, in effect, become long movies.

Earlier this year, Showtime and Canada’s Bell Media inked a deal that launched Showtime for the first time north of the border via Bell’s CraveTV SVOD service. It’s a strategy Nuñez would like to replicate in territories in which existing pay-TV distribution agreements are expiring.

“We’d been selling shows on an individual basis. This was the first deal where we have entered into a portfolio deal, not only for Showtime content, but also certain aspects of Showtime branding,” he said.

Nevins contends SVOD can help Showtime and its content lineup generate consumer interest outside of the U.S.

“The next phase of our growth is to put those shows together and make Showtime start to mean something around the world, in the same way it means [something] in North America,” he said.

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