Showtime Sets Up for Movies

Jul 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Three months after Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and MGM decided they would rather launch a new premium channel with Viacom than sell their movies—such as “Iron Man” and “The Love Guru”—for the prices Showtime was offering to renew its output deals with the studios, Showtime signed a new output deal with the Weinstein Co.
The new deal gives Showtime 95 titles from Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s studio, including the upcoming “Nine” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards,” and supports Showtime CEO Matt Blank’s claim that he’s got plenty of programming without films from Paramount, et al. Besides, it is original programming like “Dexter,” “Weeds” and “Californication,” rather than feature films, that’s driving Showtime’s buzz these days.
Mr. Blank spoke to TelevisionWeek Senior Editor Jon Lafayette about how the Weinstein deal affects Showtime’s programming.
TelevisionWeek: Are there other movie deals you can make?
Matt Blank: I think there are. I’m up to about five or six calls already since we announced this last [Monday] night from various players out there, but we’re not rushing to do any more. We really are set with films prior to this deal right through 2010 until the end of 2011. In fact, we probably have too many movies.
TVWeek: Don’t movies make up a big part of Showtime’s schedule?
Mr. Blank: This is what we were talking about. There’s a lot of film product out there, and we plan to have as much or more first-run theatrical product on the network as we have historically three years from now. Certainly enough people seem to be anxious to sit down and talk to us, and that’s something we’d be more than glad to pursue. We don’t feel any obligation to do another deal in a month. If we do, it’s because the timing was right and the players were right.
TVWeek: Are you in renewal talks with some of the cable operators? And will giving up the Paramount pictures give them an excuse to seek lower subscriber fees?
Mr. Blank: No more than usual. And this certainly isn’t going to be an issue. I think cable operators understand why Showtime is essential right now.
TVWeek: And that’s the original programming, rather than the movies?
Mr. Blank: Absolutely. The original programming has been a superstar performer over the last year or so, so we’re rarely hearing from our customers about our feature film lineups to begin with. We’ve sort of guaranteed them that we plan to be aggressive in acquiring movies at the point in time when we need them.
TVWeek: Will you move toward running fewer movies and more originals?
Mr. Blank: I don’t think there will be less movies, but I think they will be movies that are more cost-efficient for us, and as a result we’ll have more assets to devote to original programming. We picked up “Inside the NFL,” which I think HBO mistakenly let go for budget reasons. And you’re going to see more of that because that’s what’s working, that’s what consumers are feeding back to us, and that’s what our distribution customers are saying. There’s been surprisingly little response to our new competitor in terms of people coming to us and expressing concern over Showtime.
TVWeek: You said the new deal was cost-efficient. Doesn’t Harvey Weinstein usually try to drive a hard bargain?
Mr. Blank: Harvey was good to work with. This was a good negotiation and it’s a good deal for us and a good deal for him. He’s got 95 movies and he’ll have the benefit of the pay TV revenue to help him finance [movies] over the next seven years. That’s a lot of movies. He’s very anxious to get going with us and get these movies out and on Showtime.


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