Bob Garfield

How Showtime is killing it on digital

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There's no doubt that digital has disrupted television, and many networks are still struggling to adapt. Here are the unique ways Showtime approaches this ecosystem.

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.