Showtime’s David Nevins Says TV Spending Could Reach $100 Billion: ‘No Question – It’s an Arms Race’

TheGrill 2018: “There’s a lot of shows that have gone on to one of the streaming services and kind of disappear without a trace,” says pay cable network boss

The traditional TV space has been infiltrated by deep-pocketed tech giants like Netflix and Amazon (and soon — Apple), which has led to a massive increase in the amount of money spent on TV content.

“There’s a lot of people paying top dollar and it’s definitely gotten more expensive, no question about that,” said Showtime president & CEO David Nevins on Tuesday. “There’s no question – it’s an arms race.”

Nevins’ comments came during a keynote discussion, along with AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan, at TheWrap’s TheGrill conference at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Nevins said that, in total, there’s about $84-85 billion being spent on content, with about $19 billion of that coming from tech giants like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Apple. He predicted that in two years, the total number will grow to $100 billion, with a 70-30 split between traditional TV and tech companies. “We’re going to ratchet up [our output] in a significant way,” he said.

But Nevins, along Sapan, pushed back against streaming services, in particular, Netflix’s business model that more is better.

“I think as the world serves up certain services that do everything for every member of the household, the world also has an appetite for places that are highly curated and highly selective,” said Sapan, who argued there’s a world for both, but then added that “those boutiques may prove to have greater life expectancy and endurance than getting into a big business where one’s charter is chronically to serve everyone.”

Netflix’s all-things-to-all-people strategy could backfire in another way, argues Nevins: Getting high-level talent to sign on.

Showtime, as well as HBO, have been able to lure big-name actors and actresses to TV not only because they pay a lot. It’s also because each show is handled with the same care and given their own platform to launch.

“Talent also wants a more boutique experience,” Nevins explained. “There’s a lot of shows that have gone on to one of the streaming services that have kind of disappeared without a trace. That doesn’t happen if you go on AMC or you go on Showtime.”

Sapan pointed out a great example of this in “Killing Eve,” which was a huge success for BBC America and even landed star Sandra Oh an Emmy nomination. “Killing Eve” was the first show on a traditional ad-supported cable network that grew its linear ratings through eight sequential episodes, bucking the now-industry standard trend of declining viewership.

“That was because it was elevated through public relations, through promotion,” he said. “I don’t know if that would happen quite elsewhere.”