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,” he says. For now, though, he’s focused on making a subscription VOD deal to replace the one with Netflix that Starz decided not to renew. “We are in very active discussions” with other players, he says. Starz backed away from Netflix because the channel wants to be seen as special—deserving a higher price. Albrecht is counting on someone to launch a premium digital subscription VOD service, and if Starz had stuck with Netflix then “we would have made it almost impossible for anyone else to come into this space.”
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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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 … Read More »
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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