For David Nevins, the choice to step down from his role as CEO of Paramount Global’s premium group and Paramount+ scripted series was a long time coming. The executive, who replaced Bob Greenblatt as president of Showtime 12 years ago, has seen his role grow and evolve in a tenure that started first at CBS Corp. and later at the re-merged with ViacomCBS that ultimately became Paramount Global.
“I’ve been thinking about [leaving] for a while,” Nevins told THR on Thursday afternoon. “It felt like as good as time as any. If I was going to make a change, I wanted to do it when I’m in my prime. I think the industry is transforming in a lot of interesting ways and exciting possibilities. I feel like the businesses I’ve been running are in good shape. I want to be clear that it was my own choice and decision and not a casual decision. I want to help this transition so I’m staying on until the end of year. I’m leaving the businesses in good shape and there’s a lot of exciting programming coming next year. Twelve years is a long time.”
Sources say a key factor in the respected executive’s decision to leave was the current structure at Paramount Global. With the streaming service Paramount+ the top priority at the company, Bakish’s structure gave everyone a seat at the table with Nevins, Nickelodeon and Paramount film chief Brian Robbins and George Cheeks (news and sports) all having seats at the table.
“Bob wants everybody involved and Paramount+ is the enterprise of the whole company. And that’s not how Nevins likes to make decisions,” said one source with knowledge of the company’s inner-workings.
Other sources note that Nevins’ frustrations date back to early 2020 when, rather than promoting him to the top role, rising NBCUniversal exec Cheeks was hired away from Comcast to lead the then-recently merged ViacomCBS. At the time, Nevins was two years into his role as CBS Corp. creative chief and had considered himself next in line to replace Les Moonves. Cheeks, who before joining NBC had served as a business affairs exec at Viacom, officially replaced acting CEO Joe Ianniello on Jan. 31.
“David had Showtime, then got a bigger job under Les and thought he was in line to get the big job,” says one senior agency source. “Unfortunately for him, the job was not just what Les was doing but also what Joe was doing and they didn’t see David as being ready for that job and that’s where things broke down.”
Bakish — like other media execs — reorganized his executive ranks to better prioritize streaming as the pandemic took a financial toll on conglomerates including Paramount, Disney and Comcast, among others. In mid-2021, before CBS All Access was rebranded as Paramount+, Nevins was promoted alongside Paramount TV Studios president Nicole Clemens, media networks/unscripted chief Chris McCarthy and Nickelodeon’s Brian Robbins. Nevins at the time traded in oversight of CBS — where he delivered Dick Wolf’s FBI franchise and breakout hit Ghosts, among others — for scripted originals at Paramount+. A few months later, Nevins added oversight of Clemens’ Paramount TV Studios to his purview as Robbins added oversight of the Paramount film studio. With the addition of Paramount’s TV business, Nevins now had oversight of the premium cable network Showtime, Scott Mills’ BET as well as original content produced for streamer Paramount+, with Clemens now reporting to him.
“It’s been a struggle for quite a while of what is each guy’s role? Clearly David’s role was shrinking and he decided it was enough,” says one Paramount source.
When asked, Nevins declined to comment on Paramount’s structure and had only praise for Bakish and Shari Redstone.
“Bob and Shari have given me a lot of opportunities and responsibilities and it has made my life interesting. I didn’t think I would be going back to a broadcast network and I got to do some interesting shows at CBS and leave some interesting ones behind at CBS,” Nevins said. “I got good opportunities to do things and stretch in interesting ways. I’ve loved the people I work with and have gotten nothing but respect and opportunity from Shari and Bob.”
With all the executive changes that have transpired as media companies shift their focus to streaming, the once standard linear structure has become a thing of the past. Disney, for example, has empowered its TV studio chiefs for content as ABC and Hulu now share a creative exec. NBCUniversal, meanwhile, has two executives sharing the business and creative duties for a portfolio of cable networks as well as NBC and streamer Peacock.
“Paramount created this multi-headed monster and it wasn’t going to hold,” says one top agency source with business at the company. “David wasn’t happy and they weren’t happy.”
As for what’s next, Showtime will become part of McCarthy’s Paramount Media Networks group as the exec now oversees all of Paramount’s linear networks save for BET. As resources for linear continue to dwindle, Comedy Central has almost entirely exited the scripted business in favor of reality and adult animation. Almost immediately after Nevins announced his departure, a new wave of anxiety seemed to blanket the creative community. “Nevins gave everyone reassurance Paramount was still an entertainment company,” says another agency insider. Nevins ranked as Paramount’s top creative executive. In addition to McCarthy, Nevins’ responsibilities have also been divided among Paramount streaming exec Tom Ryan (Showtime’s OTT) and news and sports boss Cheeks (BET, Paramount TV).
“My message to the creative community is, give it a chance,” Nevins said. “Showtime has a deep bench of strong execs and I think it’s an essential and important brand for this company for a streaming future and the shows that Showtime makes really help drive Paramount+ around the world. We just had a successful launch of Sky Showtime in Europe and it’s rolling out across the rest of Europe shortly. Showtime matters to this company and will continue to matter. There’s a lot of good people who are going to be left in charge.”
As for what’s next, the former exec at NBC and Fox and producer at Imagine TV (Friday Night Lights) is open to the myriad of possibilities that exist in today’s rapidly changing entertainment landscape.
“I’ve done a lot of different things. I’ve been a network head, a producer, a streaming head; I’ve worked in all different corners of the business and I’ve been on sets. I’ve even paid dues to the Writers Guild along the way — but that was early on when I didn’t know anything. I value diversity of experience and I’m a curious person. I don’t know that it’s obvious what I do next. There are all sorts of different directions I could go and I want to be open to all the possibilities. I don’t think in a narrow band about what my next move in Hollywood is, be it to Culver City [where Amazon and Sony are housed] or to the Burbank corridor [Disney, Warners, Comcast]. That’s now how I approach the world.”