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Starz Chief Warns Investors That “It Will Take Money” To Produce The Original Programs It Needs

Although Starz appears to be off the market for now, CEO Chris Albrecht told investors today that his channel should still be in the catbird seat as digital media grow. But “it will take money” to produce the kind of programming that will set Starz apart from basic cable channels that spend as much as $3M an hour for originals, he said at a conference organized by his parent company Liberty Media. He wants Starz’ shows to have a theatrical feel with iconic, larger than life characters and broad appeal. He assured the audience that he won’t break the bank, though: For example, Spartacus ”is shot completely inside a warehouse in New Zealand….This is the way they make theatrical movies now.” Also Starz has decreased its spending on theatrical films. “That money will be reinvested in original programming.” Starz still plans to run theatricals from its premium TV agreements with Disney, which runs to 2016, and Sony, which goes to 2017.

The biggest new opportunities are in digital media: Starz next year will launch its own streaming platform for its pay TV customers, similar to HBO Go, Albrecht says. That will “get us in front of younger eyeballs and make our product as compelling as anything in the premium space.” Albrecht also is “willing to have the conversations” with companies that want to challenge cable and satellite providers by licensing traditional channels for a streamed service. “Someone will do it,” … Read More »

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Does John Malone Have A Big Deal In Mind For Starz?

Analysts attending Liberty Media’s annual investor day on Thursday will be listening carefully when Starz CEO Chris Albrecht discusses his channel’s plans. His boss, Liberty Chairman John Malone, loves to buy, sell, and swap assets — as long as he can do so without paying a big tax bill. And there’s a growing belief that Malone is positioning Starz for a deal as the company focuses its branding efforts around more than 50 hours of original programs — including Boss, Magic City, Spartacus, and Da Vinci’s Demons — instead of theatrical films from Disney and Sony. For example, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says in a blog post today that “a transaction may…be coming to turn Starz into an asset based security” instead of just part of the Liberty Starz tracking stock. Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible says that Starz’ “strategic benefits could make it an M&A target.” Maxim Group’s John Tinker agrees that Starz “should be merged into a larger entity.”

Albrecht reinforced those views recently by talking up his desire to have the channel stand out as a premium service. On Friday he elaborated at the Monaco Media Forum on points he made earlier in the week on the Liberty earnings call: The channel scrapped its effort to negotiate a new streaming deal with Netflix because it didn’t set Starz apart from the video pack. Read More »

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Dominic Purcell To Enter ‘Spartacus’ Arena?

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: With the long-delayed second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand officially a go, who will replace cancer-stricken Andy Whitfield as Rome’s most famous gladiator? Last Friday, Starz’s boss Chris Albrecht said that the network brass are “confident that we will find an actor who can ably step into Spartacus’ sandals.” I hear that that same day, the pay cable network’s executives had received a screen test for the role done by former Prison Break star Dominic Purcell. Throwing Purcell’s name into the mix is an intriguing proposition. For once, he does have the the physique to pull off a believable gladiator. Australian actor Liam McIntyre is said to still be in serious contention for the role, and he continues to bulk up as the network execs reportedly liked him as an actor in his November screen test but his thin frame was a problem. But last week, rumors started circulating that Starz had also approached a name actor for the part. Purcell has been vacationing in his native Australia, so he put himself on tape there and emailed the clip to Starz brass last Friday. It is not clear what the network’s final decision will be, but if Purcell gets … Read More »

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TCA: Chris Albrecht On ‘Spartacus’, Comedy

Nellie Andreeva

Spartacus: Blood and Sand will continue. Ending months of speculation, Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht confirmed that the costume drama will proceed with Season 2. “We are officially going ahead with the long planned but unfortunately delayed second season of Spartacus,” he said at the opening of Starz’s TCA session. “We don’t have casting news but … we’re very confident where we are in the casting process that we will find an actor who will step in the sandals of Spartacus although we will never be able to replace (cancer-stricken original star) Andy Whitfield.” In November, Starz flew 3 actors to New Zealand, with one of them, Australian Liam McIntyre, still in the running for the lead as he is bulking up for the task.

Albrecht was unapologetic about the channel’s creative direction towards noisy, commercial dramas or as he called it “premium TV-flavored popcorn. “We’re leaving the quiet dramas to other networks.” Here are few more soundbites from Albrecht’s short impromptu Q&A:

- On how Starz is able to do expensive-looking costume dramas like Spartacus and Camelot: “We borrowed costumes from Rome,” a series he once launched on HBO.

- On Starz’s decision to get out of the comedy series business with the cancellation of Party Down: “We’re not a very funny group.” He then added: “We decided to focus on one-hour dramas, those are the kind of productions that travel better. And it takes one to fill an hour, it’s hard to find two comedies that go together. So … Read More »

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Weinsteins Buy 25% Stake In Starz Media

Mike Fleming

Englewood, Colo. and New York, NY (January 4, 2011) – In a significant strategic partnership within the ever-changing home/digital entertainment market, Starz, LLC has agreed to sell The Weinstein Company (TWC) a 25% stake in Starz Media, LLC, a programming production, home entertainment and international TV distribution company which includes Anchor Bay Entertainment and other TV/home entertainment assets. Separately, Anchor Bay has entered into a multi-year domestic distribution agreement for new theatrical content from TWC and its Dimension Films label.

The agreements were announced today by Starz, LLC President and CEO Chris Albrecht and TWC Co-Chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Financial terms of the strategic partnership were not disclosed.

The home/digital entertainment deal, which does not include television rights but spans Blu-ray™, DVD and EST/VOD/PPV electronic/digital distribution, covers up to 20 TWC and Dimension titles per year including the seven-time Golden Globe-nominated Tom Hooper drama The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter; Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, starring Golden Globe nominees Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling; and John Wells’ feature directorial debut Company Men, starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner and Chris Cooper. Other titles include the Kristin Scott Thomas drama Sarah’s Key, upcoming sequels in the successful Scream, Spy Kids, and Scary Movie franchises, and new installments in the Hellraiser, Halloween, and Children of the Corn film series.

“The distribution agreement leverages the scale of

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Starz Sells Animation Studio Film Roman

By | Monday October 11, 2010 @ 1:48pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Chris Albrecht has been unloading assets since he took over Starz as president and CEO last December. Following the July deal with Relativity for Overture, Starz has now found a buyer for its Film Roman, the animation studio behind The Simpsons. Starz has been focusing on its core TV network business, building the channels’ original slate. It continues to operate Anchor Bay Entertainment.

October 11, 2010 – Starz Media, LLC, has reached an agreement to sell its animation studio Film Roman to a group of investors lead by former Film Roman President Scott D. Greenberg. The deal was announced today by Starz, LLC, President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Albrecht, and Greenberg. The terms of the deal will not be disclosed.

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