BOB GREENBLATT, the president of entertainment for Showtime Networks, has his eyes on the prizes. The shiny Emmy statuettes are a sure way to stand out in a crowded and ever-expanding entertainment universe.
On the strength of such original offbeat and eclectic programming as "Weeds," "Huff" and "Sleeper Cell," Greenblatt has shepherded the premium cable channel to 36 Emmy nominations over the last two years -- the highest in the network's three-decade history.
Greenblatt is hoping for an even better season this year with "The Tudors," a dramatic retelling of the Henry VIII story, and from the television adaptation of Ira Glass' public radio series "This American Life."
Why did you go with "The Tudors"?
We're always trying to do unique things and try things nobody else is doing. We loved taking this great story and reinventing it. We didn't want to do just another historical piece but wanted to infuse it with sexuality and a contemporary feel. We thought it would get a lot of attention and it would be a breath of fresh air. We've picked it up for a second season, so the good news is we'll get to the beheading of Anne Boleyn in the second season finale.
Do you see HBO as your main competition?
I think they used to be our main competition but I look around the dial and there's a lot of great shows in a lot of places. I'm competing for the viewer who wants to watch "Lost," "24" or "The Sopranos." The competition is really anybody who is doing really great television. I think HBO had their moment in the sun a few years ago with arguably two or three of the best shows that have ever been on television, but those days are behind them and they're like the rest of us and are looking for the next big show.
What are the main challenges ahead for cable television?
It's about the proliferation of channels and original programming. There are so many options out there. How do we keep ourselves separate from everybody else and jump out of the pack? Everybody is doing original programming now, even A&E and AMC. So how do we get attention in a landscape that has never been more crowded? For us, we want to put on great programming and get Emmy nominations.
What do the Emmys mean?
They are the great seal of approval for the work that we do. I don't know if they really care about them in Iowa, but they are widely recognized as the top honor in the television business and it's a great distinction.
Has Showtime's improved Emmy performance been part of the plan?
It's been a deliberate strategy for us. The Emmys are a big megillah and I'm thrilled at how well our shows have been received in the last couple years.... It's so gratifying to get the nominations, the wins are out of our hands really, but getting the nominations puts us into an elite category.