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Showtime’s Chairman and CEO Shares Insights on New Media Era at CEO Series

On February 12, 2007, Stern welcomed Matt Blank, Chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks, for its popular CEO Series. Interviewed by BusinessWeek media and entertainment reporter Tom Lowry, Mr. Blank discussed the rapidly changing media industry, how Showtime is staying relevant and successful in the new media age, and what it takes to have a career in “show biz.”

According to Mr. Blank, because there has been a shift in how and when people consume media, distribution has become a key challenge and opportunity for broadcast networks and cable television stations. Showtime, whose revenue stream has traditionally relied on subscriptions, is not afraid of trying new distribution channels, he pointed out, and it has already seen success in offering episodes of its original programming on iTunes. The network’s new series “The Tudors,” based on a young Henry VIII and which is set to premiere in April, released its first episode on iTunes last month and it was the second most downloaded show. Mr. Blank hopes this strategy will entice viewers who want to watch the entire series and/or other original programming to subscribe to Showtime.

Having spent 30 years working in cable television, Mr. Blank was at HBO before joining Showtime, and he discussed the first-mover advantage HBO enjoys. Because HBO had exclusive rights to many markets at first, including New York City, it took time for Showtime to establish a presence. To differentiate itself from HBO, Showtime offers more edgy original programming such as Weeds, The L-Word and Brotherhood. With this programming strategy, Mr. Blank hopes to attract viewers who may already have HBO, but are interested in the original series on Showtime.

In offering advice to students interested in pursuing careers in media, Mr. Blank stressed that the entertainment industry offers a non-linear career path and that it is critical to be flexible when seeking jobs in this industry.

The interview was followed by a reception, where Mr. Blank spoke to students and alumni individually and where Showtime handed out promotional DVDs of their new programming.

View the Matt Blank CEO Series in its entirety.