After a successful three-and-a-half years on the job, Showtime‘s entertainment president David Nevins has been given a bigger title and signed into a new deal to keep him at the company though 2018. In his new role …
Somebody wants a piece of Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Specifically that someone is one Brian Larsen, who is claiming that the premium channel lifted his idea to create the hit Hollywood-fixer series starring Liev Schreiber. Southland creator Ann Biderman is credited with coming up with Donovan and is an EP on the Mark Gordon Company show. Not so, says Larsen, though neither Binderman nor Gordon is named as a defendant. In an 11-page breach of implied contract and breach of confidence complaint filed February 13 in L.A. Superior Court (read it here), the seemingly creditless Larsen and his Radical Pictures LLC says Donovan “mimics” his 2009 fixer concept The Swissman. Touting that the series has “enriched Defendants to the tune of millions of dollars,” Larsen wants Donovan stopped via an injunction and is seeking wide ranging but unspecified damages of more than $25,000.
The basic gist of the jury trial seeking complaint is that former Showtime Original Programming VP Danielle Gelber, who is called a “development executive” in the complaint, took a meeting with Larsen on his concept and WGA register script on November 5, 2010. Larsen’s idea was about a San Francisco-based fixer who discreetly handles high-profile clients problems and has a messed-up family – like Donovan but more Northern California than SoCal.
Showtime has deployed the first full trailer for its psychosexual horror series that bows May 11. Penny Dreadful unites some of literature’s creepiest characters — including those ripped from tales of Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula — deposits them in Victorian London and lets the mayhem begin. …
Vinessa Shaw (Vegas, 3:10 To Yuma) has signed on for a season-long arc on Showtime’s Ray Donovan. (SPOILER ALERT!) Shaw will play Kate, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Boston Globe who is writing a book on Sully (James Woods’ character from last season) and comes to L.A. to investigate his death. She joins recently cast Hank Azaria and Sherilyn Fenn in the upcoming second season of the Mark Gordon Co-produced series. Ray Donovan stars Liev Schreiber as LA’s best professional fixer, the man called in to make the city’s celebrities, superstar athletes, and business moguls’ most complicated and combustible situations go away. Shaw is repped by ICM partners, Thruline Entertainment and attorney Gretchen Rush.
“We don’t plan on releasing our metrics,” Netflix‘s Ted Sarandos said today. “There’s no benefit to showing we’re beating said network — we don’t need to,” the streaming service’s chief content officer added during the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s annual programmers luncheon in Beverly Hills. “We’re looking for a proportional success,” he said earlier of what defines success for Netflix. “Because if people vote with their time and their checkbook, they’ll watch,” he noted. “We look at how our shows do compared to other shows,” he added of how Netflix internally assesses its programming. “We know how many hours people watch, the drop-out rates…what devices people are watching on because that says a lot about behavior too.”
“You know in the culture that Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards are enormous hits,” Sarandos said of two of Netflix’s original series.
Other panelists took a different approach discussing their programming philosophy. “I believe in the tantric form of television,” Showtime’s President of Entertainment David Nevins said. “Slow, steady, don’t want to give it to them too soon,” he added to huge laughter from the crowd. Steamy innuendo aside, the cable exec had been debating over philosophies of TV viewing. Sarandos, not surprisingly, was a big proponent of the binge viewing that has come to define Neflix’s original series like House Of Cards.
UPDATE, 1:45 PM: Happyish creator/executive producer Shalom Auslander issued a statement on Hoffman’s passing: “This planet is no damned place to have a heart, and Phil had the biggest, brokenest heart of anyone I have ever met. He was a beautiful person in a hideous world. Great actor, too.” Auslander and his writing team had been working on scripts for the recently picked up series, which now has been put on hold.
PREVIOUS, SUNDAY 12:50 PM: Like all great actors whose lives are tragically cut short way too early, Philip Seymour Hoffman is leaving a number of unfinished projects behind. Only two weeks ago, Showtime unveiled its two new series for 2014, including Happyish starring Hoffman in what would’ve been his first series role. (He earned an Emmy nomination in 2005 for the HBO mini Empire Falls.) Today, Showtime issued the following statement: “Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of our generation’s finest and most brilliant actors. He was also a gifted comedic talent. It was a great privilege and pleasure to work with him and we are all absolutely devastated by this sudden loss. Our thoughts go out to his family at this very difficult time.”
Of course, the news is so sudden and shocking, it will take time for Showtime brass to make a decision on the future of Happyish. But judging by the trailer from the pilot shown at TCA, Hoffman WAS the show.
Showtime and HBO have made opposite programming decisions for Super Bowl Sunday. Showtime, which originally planned to air repeats on February 2, has now decided to air originals of its series Shameless, House Of Lies and Episodes against the big game. I hear the call was made after Showtime brass were encouraged by the shows’ performances last Sunday when, against the strongest primetime NFC Championship Game in 19 years, they managed to post a 17% year-to-year audience growth for the night. With over 70% of Showtime subscribers watching series on a time-shifted basis, the network decided not to interrupt its weekly delivery of originals.
Wall Street is so driven by groupthink that I have to take my hat off to Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger for sticking to his guns this morning about CBS. He’s one of the lonely few analysts who’s neutral about the company’s stock; 21 have a “buy” vs five who have a “hold”. That made him the wallflower at the CBS party: Its shares have appreciated 97.5%, well ahead of the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500′s 32.7% in the period since late February 2012 when Juenger initiated his coverage with a “market perform” recommendation. The analyst says that he feels like someone who looks at the Mona Lisa and says “Eh, that’s a nice painting.” So why doesn’t he join the pack? He believes that “upside operating scenarios for CBS are either exhausted or fully baked into the stock, but downside risk remains.” Take retransmission consent. He underestimated how quickly the company would collect those fees from pay TV distributors. But now the revenues are “solidly built into expectations.” Showtime grew faster than he anticipated, but he wonders: “How much longer can it keep growing at the same pace?” And CBS’ ratings success could become a problem. “As the #1 network, there will always be the risk of ratings decline, no matter how good CBS’ track record. …There is always some chance the U.S. will wake up one day and no longer be interested in NCIS or CSI. We’re not saying that’s likely. But it is always a risk.”
2ND UPDATE 2:16 PM: The NPD Group today issued a “data clarification” about its Monday press release that said its study found that streaming services are gaining while premium cable channels are losing subscribers. A day after Showtime refuted those findings, NPD Group said it should not have called our declines for HBO and Showtime.”Upon further examination of the results,” the group said in the release, “there is data supporting the conclusion that individual subscribers are either subscribing to more channels, or adding channels over time.” Here’s the full statement: “A recent press announcement from The NPD Group that was released on Monday, January 20, 2014 (‘Cord Shaving? SVOD Subscribers Increase, as Premium TV Subscribers Decline, According to The NPD Group’) should not have called out declines in subscribers for specific premium TV channels, HBO and Showtime. The data used for the press release pertains to aggregate results for all premium TV channels and does indicate that the overall number of subscribers has declined, based on a representative sample of the U.S. population. However, upon further examination of the results, there is data supporting the conclusion that individual subscribers are either subscribing to more channels, or adding channels over time. In that case, faithful premium channel subscribers are becoming more so – which would be consistent with the subscription increases being reported by individual channels.”
UPDATED 3:14 PM Tuesday: Not so fast, Showtime says. The premium channel issued a release today saying the “NPD Group ‘study’ does not accurately reflect actual subscriber counts.” Showtime says that not only has it added 1M subs in six of the past seven years, but premium rivals HBO, Cinemax and Starz also have increased subs during that period. Here’s the full statement: “Contrary to erroneous reports published this week, Showtime and every other premium network have increased both subscribers and penetrations over the last two years. A study released by the NPD Group claimed the opposite, comparing gains made by video services like Netflix to the performance of premium cable. The study does not accurately reflect actual subscriber counts. According to SNL Kagan, from March 2012 through September 2013 – the timeframe the NPD Group allegedly measured — Showtime penetration grew from 21.1 percent to 22.8 percent; HBO penetration rose from 28.2 percent to 29.2 percent; Cinemax penetration climbed from 11.2 percent to 13.6 percent and Starz penetration jumped from 19.9 percent to 22 percent. While it is true that video services like Netflix have gained, so too have premium cable channels.”
TCA: John Logan Says He Wrote ‘Penny Dreadful’ After Re-Visiting “Poor Vengeful Monstrous Creature That Is Frankenstein”: Video
“I’m a total monster geek,” award-winning playwright turned go-to James Bond scriptwriter John Logan said when asked how he wound up writing and exec producing Showtime’s psychosexual horror series Penny Dreadful. The pay cable network has ordered eight episodes of the series that features some of literature’s most iconic monsters, including Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dorian Gray. Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Rory Kinnear, Harry Treadaway, Reeve Carney and Billie Piper star.
Reading a lot of Wordsworth led him to re-read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, he explained, adding, “I started thinking about why, almost 200 years later, we’re still reading ‘Frankenstein‘ and I think it’s because the monster breaks my heart. Growing up as a gay man before that was as socially acceptable as it is now, I knew what it was like not to feel socially acceptable, but the same thing that made me monstrous to some people made me who I was.” Re-visting Frankenstein, he said, “I wept reading about the pathos and suffering of the poor, vengeful, monstrous creature.“
In Showtime‘s Episodes, Matt LeBlanc plays a fictional version of himself, working on a terrible TV series adaptation of a good British comedy series that’s airing in this country on a network run by a president “who lies…every step of the way — a broadcast network television president,” Showtime president David Nevins clarified, as he introduced the cast and creators to TV critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2014.
“There was a stalker in London,” offered creator Jeffrey Klarik.
“There was a stalker. I did not sleep with her…She was cute is all,” LeBlanc jumped in.
Showtime is expected to announce during their TCA session this morning that it has picked up to series drama pilot The Affair, starring Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson, and comedy pilot Happyish (formerly Trending Down), starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathryn Hahn and Rhys Ifan. Both will receive 10-episode orders. This is the second consecutive year that Showtime is picking up two of its three pilots to series. (The third 2013 pilot, drama The Vatican, did not go forward.) Since David Nevins joined the network as an entertainment president, he has ordered a total of eight pilots, six of which have gone to series. The first four series, Homeland, House Of Lies, Ray Donovan and Masters Of Sex all have been critical and commercial successes. (Add to that CBS’ Under The Dome, which was fully developed at Showtime.) They will now be joined by The Affair and Happyish as well as the upcoming direct-to-series genre drama Penny Dreadful.
The psychosexual horror series features some of literature’s most frightening and iconic figures as they grapple with alienation in Victorian London. Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Rory Kinnear, Harry Treadaway, Reeve Carney and Billie Piper star in Showtime‘s eight-episode Penny Dreadful. Here’s a 3o-second peek:
Showtime‘s Episodes has been renewed for a fourth season ahead of its Season 3 premiere. The comedy, a co-production with the BBC, has been picked up for a nine-episode fourth season to film next year. The third season of the series, starring Matt LeBlanc as a fictionalized version of himself, premieres January 12. It picks up with Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) — the English couple whose hit UK sitcom is remade for U.S. audiences and corrupted beyond recognition — back together but they soon discover it’s not so easy to heal old wounds. Things get no easier for Matt this year as his career and ego continue to be pummeled.