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Without David Nevins, Showtime Might Have Been Cinemax

Nevins turned what was just another cable movie channel into the home of "Shameless," "Homeland," "Billions," and "Yellowjackets."

Showtime chief David Nevins' headshot

Showtime chief David Nevins’ headshot

Showtime/Paramount Global

David Nevins will exit Showtime, the premium-cable channel he truly made premium, at the end of the year. He leaves Showtime in a better place than he found it.

A dozen years ago, Nevins took the Showtime reins when the channel was a dime-a-dozen subscription-cable network that aired movie reruns. (Those definitely did not cost a dime for a dozen — then or now.)

Nevins, a producer whose credits included “Friday Night Lights” and “Arrested Development,” immediately greenlit “Homeland” — one of the three biggest hits in Showtime’s history. “Dexter: New Blood,” was also his — as were fellow Showtime Top-10 series “Billions,” “Yellowjackets,” and “Your Honor.” Though Nevins did not order “Shameless,” he shepherded it to major success; under Nevins’ watch, Showtime was nominated for 244 Emmys and won 33.

In a Thursday note to staff obtained by IndieWire, Paramount Global chief Bob Bakish credited Nevins with “transforming [Showtime] into the cultural powerhouse and iconic brand that it is today.”

Nevins also brought Showtime into the 21st century by overseeing its push into streaming. Recently, Paramount+ announced it was finally bringing Showtime in via a bundle option. That created an opportunity — and focused a magnifying glass on talent redundancy.

“David has made sure that Showtime remains central to our differentiated, global, multi-platform strategy,” Bakish wrote in his email. “At the same time, this change has also given us the opportunity to more closely align our studios, networks and streaming operations as we execute on our vision and strategy for the future.”

Nevins is no longer a part of that “vision and strategy for the future.” Nor is spending tons of money in the cost-cutting stretch of the streaming wars. Nevins had “caviar” tastes, as one insider said who spoke with IndieWire on the condition of anonymity, put it. Bakish is doling out the responsibilities of the chairman and CEO of Paramount Premium Group and Chief Creative Officer of Paramount+ Scripted Series (Nevins’ actual job title) among three fish-and-chips guys.

Homeland Season 8 Episode 12 Series Finale Claire Danes

Claire Danes in Showtime series “Homeland.”

Sifeddine Elamine / Showtime

Showtime Networks will shift into Paramount Media Networks under Chris McCarthy, the guy who oversees MTV, Comedy Central, and the “Yellowstone” franchise that first launched on the Paramount Network cable channel. The Showtime streaming teams, however, will move under Paramount Streaming and report to Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan. BET and Paramount Television Studios will move under George Cheeks, who is the president and CEO of CBS Entertainment as well as chief content officer of news and sports for Paramount+.

A second insider with knowledge of the situation assured IndieWire that Nevins was not let go; he chose to leave. Puck’s Matt Belloni reported that Nevins “wanted greater control of scripted content” on Paramount+ and didn’t get it. The second source we spoke with for this story said the decision was more nuanced than that and called this “an opportunity to simplify the organization a little bit.” That person added that the “good taste” of the “well-regarded” Nevins will continue to be reflected in future prestige programming under the Showtime banner.

So Nevins is soon gone, but his legacy should not be forgotten. If not for Nevins, Showtime could have coasted into a Cinemax-like existence. Here, we should note that Cinemax is still a thing; it’s even a profitable thing. But Cinemax is only available on linear television, a medium that’s far more ready to be put out to pasture than the 56-year-old Nevins. Original series never really worked out at Cinemax, and the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned cable add-on largely replays movies these days. (Warner’s other premium TV channel HBO did just fine shouldering the original-series burden.)

As cord-cutting continues and streaming services scale, it is possible — even probable — that Showtime OTT folds up and into Paramount+ in the not-too-distant future. Ironically, it’s the very same media consolidation that showed Nevins the door.

A third individual told IndieWire that when Showtime was owned by CBS Corp., Nevins had autonomy. That ended when Viacom and CBS re-merged in December 2019. By then, Nevins guided Showtime to a place better than Starz but shy of HBO. And that’s something for Nevins to hang his hat on wherever he next hangs his shingle.

Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief in Halo Season 1, Episode 9, streaming on Paramount+. Photo credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief in “Halo” Season 1, Episode 9, streaming on Paramount+.

Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

You can read Nevins’ farewell email to staff, which was obtained by IndieWire, below.

Dear Team,
I am writing this morning, so you hear the news from me that I’ve made the decision that the time is right for me to step down from my post atop the premium group at the end of the year.

The good news is that it’s not immediate and I’ll be helping to figure out the details of the transition.

I am tremendously grateful for the past 12 years and the varying positions I’ve held at this company. It has truly been one of the great joys of my life to get to do what I love to do with all of you. Together, we’ve accomplished an enormous amount. Year after year, we’ve managed to make and launch shows that defined the zeitgeist, that excited, delighted, and moved our audiences, and that received adulation and awards from our peers.

Love of good storytelling, being excellent, showing up and being passionate about what you do, that is what all of you have brought to the table day in and day out. When I spent a year abroad in Glasgow during college, I studied film for the first time and the kids there truly could only dream of being able to tell stories on such a grand scale to a world-wide audience. I realized the great privilege of being American was that after graduating I could take my grandmother’s old Buick, drive to LA and give the dream a shot — no green card required. And you all have helped make that dream a reality.

Most of all, I’m so proud of the team we’ve put together. To those of you who predate my arrival, to those of you who have joined in the past decade and to those of you who I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with only since the merger: thank you. We’ve built a culture of integrity, respect, collaboration, and risk-taking creativity. Together we’ve transformed our entire business model over the past few years. And we’ve been able to attract some of the most talented creative people on the planet to come work with us.

I am also immensely thankful for the support of Bob and Shari as well as my colleagues on Bob’s leadership team. Their personal commitment to the success of this company and the achievement of our individual goals are what you can only hope for from your leadership.

So why now? Quite simply, over the past several months I’ve come to the conclusion that I am ready for the next phase of my life and my career. The industry is transforming rapidly, and I am genuinely excited about what the future holds. Most importantly, the leadership team led by Jana Winograde, Gary Levine, Scott Mills and Nicole Clemens are more than ready. The 2023 slate is set, and I believe the coming year’s schedules from Showtime, BET, and Paramount Television Studios are going to be the most ambitious and exciting group of shows we’ve ever put out in a single year. I can’t wait to watch it happen.

Know that I will be here during this transition to support each of you to the best of my ability. I very much look forward to our continued relationships because at root that’s what’s best about working in this industry: the relationships we build with each other. That and the sheer joy of serving our audiences with stories that glue them to their screens.

Thanks to all of you.

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