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Showtime adds 2 million subscribers, expands original shows

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Premium cable channel Showtime said on Thursday it has gained another two million subscribers this year and announced two new comedies in its bid to expand its slate of edgy, sophisticated programing.

"Laughing Stock", produced by former "The Office" star Steve Carell, will debut in early 2012 as an in-depth interview series with some of the biggest names in comedy including Jerry Seinfeld, Mel Brooks, Larry David and Judd Apatow.

January 2012 will see the debut of "House of Lies" starring Don Cheadle, which Showtime programing president David Nevins described as a subversive comedy set in the world of management consultants.

Nevins said the cable channel, once seen as an underdog to rival HBO in terms of original quality drama, was in expansion mode. Showtime, owned by CBS Corp now has 20.5 million subscribers, up two million in the last year, he said.

The rise in subscriptions follows the success earlier this year of new historical drama "The Borgias" starring Jeremy Irons, and dysfunctional family series "Shameless". Nevins said the two shows had brought Showtime the biggest audiences in its history.

Showtime is also home to award-winning stars and shows like "Dexter" and "Nurse Jackie" and has high hopes for its new psychological thriller "Homeland" in October, which is set in a post September 11 America.

"We are in a good place right now. We are trying to get gradually bigger," Nevins told the bi-annual meeting of television critics in Los Angeles.

Nevins, who took over at Showtime a year go, said he wanted the cable channel to broadcast "the most compelling stuff on television".

"We are not in an advertiser environment, so we have the ability to push limits," he said. "I think there is an opportunity for R-rated comedy that is very addictive that nobody else could possibly get away with."

But Nevins said there was also a big place for drama and other genres on the channel

"I believe in a real diversity of programing. There are no formulas. I think all of our stuff should have sophistication and be adult, have rich psychology and be interesting have edge to them."

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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