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How Showtime is killing it on digital

How Showtime is killing it on digital Don Buckley

Showtime Networks is one of the most influential and watched networks in the world. With legacy shows like "Dexter," current cultural pillars like "Homeland," and exciting new programming like "Penny Dreadful," this company has shown why it is a leader in producing high-quality content for mass appeal.

However, Showtime, like every major TV network, exists in a world where digital is changing TV consumption habits across the board. Not just with the way measurement and attribution are defined, but with how consumers appreciate content depending on the consumption experience per device. It brings up good questions. What does it mean to "watch TV" these days? What is "television?" What is the new definition of viewership? Digital is changing the landscape faster than these questions can be answered, but Showtime is taking a lead in ensuring that it prepares itself for disruptions.

First, Showtime takes an all-of-the-above approach to viewership and measurement. It appreciates live program viewing, but also embraces video on demand, DVR, and Showtime Anytime (its on-demand app) viewing patterns. Collectively, Showtime clarifies the success of its programming in a holistic manner, not a one-size-fits-all mindset. Does pulling from all these sources increase data and complexity? Of course it does. But in a world where viewers don't care where they consume their favorite shows, the onus is on the network to take on the data challenge and not be biased toward any one specific channel. For Showtime, on-demand viewing is not belittled.

Millennials don't recognize the difference between what they call TV and where they watch TV. For example, Millennials watching "Homeland" on a tablet while riding on an airplane would still consider it "watching television." The semantic lines have blurred and will only continue to do so as the more technically savvy Generation Z emerges. Showtime is preparing for this by not relying so heavily on what we currently define as television. Soon, the mainstream opinion will be that TV is not just the screen in your living room; it's the screen wherever you're watching programming. Showtime is beefing up its digital presence and on-demand options to prepare for this shift. While it is semantic in nature, it represents an evolution of perspective that will have a real impact on content viewership.

No one knows more about the inner workings of Showtime Networks than its EVP and CMO, Don Buckley. He speaks with iMedia's David Zaleski about the evolving television landscape and why the definition of TV should not serve as a barrier for networks preparing for greater digital disruptions.

Showtime mixes the commonplace with the unique when it comes to tactics that make it stand out in the digital ecosystem. Like many networks, Showtime employs a robust social media presence and keeps its Facebook and Twitter accounts alive and energetic. It even dabbles in Tumblr for certain program promotions.

Uniquely, Showtime loves to amplify its messages through digital from any number of marketing tactics, whether it is experiential, television, or even local events. It understands that digital can compound any message from any delivery system, and online chatter is always a good thing. Digital has the ability to make any marketing tactic a national event if it is has the right legs and the right amount of passion poured into it.

Rather than innovating for innovating's sake, Showtime takes the approach that marketing its programs comes first -- and if innovation follows, or is a necessary bi-product, then that is an added bonus. Many networks try to adapt to digital by thinking outside the box and taking risks. While risks are great, they must be calculated. You can't let a new, shiny object distract you from the fast-paced world of basic television program marketing. Remember companion viewing experiences through customized apps? It's just one example of an "innovative" tactic that was beaten to death by too many entertainment marketers who never saw much traction.

Lastly, Showtime respects the mobile form and understands its ability to give and take from its marketing goals. There's no doubt that we live in a mobile world, so you would think that Showtime would be all over it -- like white on rice. While Showtime does have a robust mobile presence, it takes a non-interruptive approach when it comes to advertising. According to Don Buckley, if an advertiser is going to interrupt people on their most personal devices, that advertiser better have something to say. If not, it can create huge backlash for the brand over time. That is the power of mobile, and Showtime aims to not abuse it.

Don Buckley ends our conversation by explaining the creative ways Showtime Networks differentiates itself from competitors, all while masterfully walking the line between disruptive and helpful.

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Article written and videos edited by senior media producer David Zaleski.

"LCD tv monitor," "Vector computer tablet," "Front side view of black car driving fast," "Boxing ring,” and "Boxing ring girl holding a board with round number" images via Shutterstock.

Don Buckley is EVP, CMO at Showtime Networks, Inc. He supervises all of the company's creative advertising, program marketing, media and promotions, and digital media departments. Buckley joined Showtime in 2011 to head up its digital media group as...

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