Matthew Blank, Showtime CEO, suggested that the Epix channel -- from Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM that has struggled to gain distribution -- may be more of a digital play. "We don't really see Epix as a player in the premium television business. ... Frankly, they're just not on our radar screen in terms of competing every day for subscribers," he said at an industry event.
To some degree, Showtime played a role in the launch of Epix. Since it refused to re-up a distribution deal for Paramount films, Viacom sought other options.
Short of HBO, Blank referred to the specter of other challenges as "the weather." "Always changing, always unpredictable," and storms can emerge suddenly. Starz, for example, is looking to expand into original series production.
There is some speculation that cord-cutting is on the rise, but Blank suggested that figures showing recent reductions in subscribers are more because of defense than offense. Namely, the lingering recession has contributed to drops in subscriptions for TV service, he said. Possible evidence: Dish Network, often positioned as a bargain service, saw a slight decline in the third quarter.
Blank said Showtime is mindful that 18-to-34 viewers may be candidates to drop a cable subscription and explore digital options. But at least for the near-long term, it expects to maintain, if not expand, its 18 million to 19 million subscriber base and $1 billion-plus in revenues.
"We think the distributed business as it exists today will be the primary source of revenue for us for years to come," Blank said. The company is launching Showtime Anytime, allowing online access to its content, but does not interrupt a current financial model, since it will be available only to paying subscribers.
Blank also said the value proposition of 3D TV appears to be minimal at the moment. TV viewing is a passive experience and watching with heavy glasses doesn't seem so appealing -- at least for him, he said.
Still, a certain follow-the-viewer dynamic exists. "We certainly won't be left behind if the content is there and the demand is there," he said. "We'll do something."