Paramount Global top executive David Nevins told a U.K. TV industry event on Thursday that he is interested to see what writers have to say about the Supreme Court’s overturning of abortion rights and revealed some details about an upcoming documentary about comedian Louis CK and his return after a sexual harassment scandal.
Louis C.K. is “a slightly different situation (from Harvey Weinstein), a great, great comedian who has come back in his own way,” the chairman and CEO, Paramount Premium Group and chief creative officer, Paramount+ scripted series said in his return to the Edinburgh TV Festival after seven years. He mentioned the project involves the New York Times reporters who broke the original story that the comic had been accused of sexual misconduct by several women. Nevins called it “a very interesting documentary, which I haven’t seen yet, but I am looking forward to” doing so. “It is going to deal with all the ‘where are we now four, five years later after the Weinstein story broke.”
He also addressed the broader topic of sexual harassment. “I don’t think the social changes that #MetToo has brought about are resolved at all,” Nevins said. “It is really complicated. And there is a bit of backlash against #MeToo – (the question now often is) who needs to go away and who is allowed to come back.”
Former Sky Studios boss Jane Millichip, who will take over as BAFTA CEO in October, also quizzed Nevins on the current landscape of scripted content, his experiences in maximizing creativity, managing talent relationships and intellectual property, as well as whether the industry can sustain all the current streaming services.
The executive showed sneak peeks of such other upcoming content as Grease, the new season of Your Honor, starring Bryan Cranston, a judge confronting his deepest convictions when his son is involved in a hit and run, and drama series American Gigolo, starring Jon Bernthal (We Own This City) in the titular role for the reimagining of the iconic 1980 film.
“On some level, moral bankruptcy is always interesting,” he said, adding that Cranston is just a great actor. Season 1 of Your Honor was about the protagonist’s “descent into hell,” Nevins said. Season 2 is about “the hell he now has to live in,” he added. “It starts really low. And he added: “Like any great actor, Bryan Cranston is a glutton for suffering.” The star lost a lot of weight and grew “a crazy beard,” Nevins shared. The show is based on a format, an Israeli show that he never saw., he mentioned. The show was mostly written before George Floyd. But it gave it “relevance and direction,” Nevins said. “It definitely (impacted) how (Peter) Moffatt wrote the subsequent episodes.”
Asked about the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade and whether the resulting renewed debate about abortion rights will play into future content and whether the entertainment and TV industries have a duty here, Nevins said: “I am interested to see what our best writers have to say. I think it makes for interesting television. I don’t know if I feel I have a duty, but I have an interest.”
Nevins also shared that, “I will encourage any writer or producer who have something interesting to say,” adding later: “I always want to encourage writers with interesting things to say.” He explained that “I believe in the Trojan horse theory of television,” where creators can present various genres and at the same time end up “touching on things that affect people’s lives.” Upcoming gothic thriller The Woman in the Wall, starring Ruth Wilson, which Showtime and BBC commissioned, is “a weird, interesting British” horror series, for example, Nevins said. “We commissioned that before Roe v. Wade was overturned. It is a weird little horror story … It will inevitably feel like it is reflecting the moment we are in now.”
He also said that amid the war in Ukraine Billions will have “very interesting things to say” about Russian oligarchs in London given the show “has a particular angle on it.”
Nevins on Thursday also addressed the importance of known franchises and intellectual property, saying its rise on TV and beyond “is not a coincidence.” He touted Halo as the no. 1 show around the world, driving sign-ups for Paramount+, “by a long shot,” while it is no. 2 in the U.S. “It will be a big show for a long time, because there are so many ways it can go,” he predicted.
On Grease, he said it is “a beloved film that has transcended generations,” which the company will bring into the present day.
Asked about ordering shows for a global versus a local audience, Nevins mentioned gangster drama Sexy Beast as an example for how things have changed in the streaming age. “I had seen the script” back before the Viacom-CBS merger, around five years ago, he shared. At the time, he felt it was “really good,” but was “a little bit too British for Showtime.” But now, things have changed. “It is a very different mindset when you are competing for subscribers” in the U.K., Ireland and beyond, the executive said. “The calculus flipped. Now, Sexy Beast makes a lot of sense.” How will it do? “I expect it to do really well in the U.K. and pretty well in the U.S.,” Nevins said.
How does he want Paramount+ to be positioned and feel to consumers? “I want Paramount+ to feel like it is accessible,” including having “some movie excitement to it.”
Former Showtime chief Nevins last year added oversight of originals at streamer Paramount+ to his portfolio and then also absorbed Paramount TV Studios, while CBS Studios is part of the portfolio of CBS Corp. CEO George Cheeks.
Paramount ended June with 63.7 million global streaming subscribers, including 43.3 million Paramount+ subs.
At Paramount, Nevins is responsible for the development and deployment of scripted originals, including dramas and comedies, for Paramount+ and for overseeing all aspects of Showtime Networks and its channels, BET and Paramount Television Studios.
He has been credited for playing a key role in the collaboration between Paramount+ and Showtime on the original series Halo. His team has also developed such Paramount+ series as The Offer and Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies.
He also works closely with Paramount Global’s international and domestic distribution groups on the monetization of Showtime Networks content around the world.
Since Nevins joined the company in 2010, Showtime launched its stand-alone streaming service and such hit series as Yellowjackets, Dexter: New Blood, Billions, Ray Donovan, The Affair and Homeland.
Before joining Showtime, Nevins was an Emmy Award-winning producer and network programming executive. He served as president of Imagine Television from 2002 until 2010. Before that, he served as executive vp of programming at Fox Broadcasting and as senior vp, primetime series at NBC.