"Showtime has long been second to HBO among premium cable channels, but on the strength of its critically acclaimed drama ‘Homeland,’ it has seized a coveted title from its larger rival: the channel with the most discussed, praised and award-festooned cable show of the year," writes our friend Bill Carter in The New York Times.
Indeed, commenting of "Homeland’s" recent Golden Globe win as best drama series on TV, David Nevins, Showtime’s president of entertainment, told Carter, " ‘That best-series win is a breakthrough moment that says cutting-edge stuff is being done here.’ Offering compelling series is the main way premium channels keep the subscriber cash flowing. ‘We don’t think it’s an accident that five years ago we were at 13 million subs, and now we’re pushing 22 million,’ Mr. Nevins said."
The story adds, "Over the same period, HBO has held relatively steady at 28 million to 29 million."
Talking about HBO, Carter writes, "The leveling off of HBO’s growth, its executives conceded, can be traced in part to a fallow period in its series development about four years ago, when its entertainment management was going through an upheaval as Chris Albrecht was replaced by Michael Lombardo, the president for programming at HBO, and Richard Plepler, the co-president of HBO. … HBO famously passed on “Mad Men” — which has collected a trove of awards for AMC — and it took time and “a full-court press,” as [Plepler] put it, to bring the biggest names in Hollywood back to HBO."
On the money side of the equation Carter writes, "In recent years, HBO has earned about a quarter of the total annual profits for its parent, Time Warner, generating slightly more than $1 billion annually. Showtime is growing, but remains considerably behind. A Morgan Stanley report on CBS estimated that the cable channel would earn $692 million in 2011. The channels earn significant revenue from subscriber fees: usually about $16 a month for each subscriber. HBO also owns virtually all of its programming while Showtime owns about 50 percent. (‘Homeland’ is owned by the Fox studio.)"
The article also notes that more of HBO’s viewers watch its hit series than Showtime viewers watch its hits.
Carter also notes, "HBO is positioning itself to meet the challenge from Showtime — and other cable rivals like AMC and FX — with a coming roster of programming that includes the most prominent group of shows HBO has ever assembled in one year."