In the final weeks before Viacom and CBS’ latest reunion becomes a $30 billion fact, Showtime boss and rising corporate star David Nevins today had praise for the launch of Disney+ and promised surprises with the remerged media giant.
“I think it is impressive,” the CBS Chief Content Officer bluntly noted of the 10 million subscribers that the House of Mouse say signed up in the 24 hours after the new streaming service launched on November 12, with a few technical issues and its Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian. “Not surprising, it is a shiny new thing,” Nevins added in the accelerated streaming wars that have seen Disney+ and AppleTV+ join the fray in the past two weeks to challenge Netflix, Amazon and the Disney controlled Hulu.
Introduced as the “creative guru at CBS” by CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, a often circumspect and oddly low key Nevins asserted the reality is “it is not about my taste all the way” as he praised Paramount, Showtime, BET, Nickelodeon executives and their ongoing green lighting powers. Having been recently anointed as the head of a ViacomCBS content council, Nevins told the Recode conference Monday that he saw his CCO gig and growing responsibilities as “coordination, making sure information is flowing and we’re not stepping on each other’s toes.”
Citing a “slightly more adventurous” schedule from CBS this season with the likes of drama Evil and sitcom The Unicorn, Nevins asserted that “we don’t just depend on an algorithm.” In an admitted awkward moment where, as Nevins stated “we can’t announcement anything as we wait for the deal to close hopefully in the next few weeks,” the CCO made it clear nonetheless that he wanted to help take the Bob Bakish run ViacomCBS forward with a bit of the old and a bit of the new.
“I like to be provocative and I like to be unpredictable,” Nevins teased, citing shows like Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America? miniseries and focusing on underserved demographics like the African-American and LGBTQ communities. “I like to be an equal opportunity offender, piss off the right, piss off the left, Nevins added to laughs from the ReCode crowd.
As an example of such surprises and equal offender programming, Nevins threw up a trial balloon of CBS Studios’ upcoming Jeff Daniels-led James Comey four-hour miniseries. Calling the fired FBI director a “lightening rod,” Nevins promised the political project will have fans and detractors on both sides of the spectrum – and he is OK with that. “It is such an interesting prism to look at partisanship,” he suggested in an America going through the impeachment hearings against Donald Trump and the election next year.
In the still radioactive aftermath of the exit of much accused CBS overlord Les Moonves in September 2018 and ongoing issues in the company, Nevins admitted that Black Rock has to work for change, on a multitude of levels.” It’s “a very low bar that is safe from bullying and harassment,” the exec stated, “but the challenge is creating a culture where people take risks.”
“We are going to be very careful about looking were we are going to maximize our investment,” Nevins noted, tossing out the $13 billion the Viacom and CBS assets have laid out on content this part year. “We are together in acquiring the next generation of IP … there’s going to be an enormous opportunity to build brands together,” he proposed.
“We are going to have a slightly different strategy than other people, Nevins revealed of the future of the Shari Redstone controlled ViacomCBS. “I don’t think we need to be all things to all people.”