It has already been a great day for the legions of (predominantly female) fans of Diana Gabaldon‘s wildly popular Outlander time-travel romantic novels as Starz released a new image from its series adaptation of the first book depicting hero Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) shirtless. Here is more good news for them: Sony TV-produced Outlander, currently in production on its 16-episode freshman season, will do at least one more. “I would be shocked if we didn’t do the second book,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told me after the Scotland-set show’s session at TCA that featured writer and showrunner Ron Moore in a kilt. It is not only the enormous and enormously passionate fan base of the books, though that is not lost on Starz brass. Albrecht said he is very high on the early footage he has seen and didn’t spare praise for Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer Moore’s skills as a top-notch writer and producer.
Even without the big vote of confidence from Albrecht, Outlander has the odds in its favor as all original dramas ordered by Albrecht have gone to second season with one exception, Camelot. I asked Albrecht about Starz’s “two-season curse” as no series since Spartacus has been able to go to a third season.
“You want a show that really makes a difference,” he said. The exec believes that good serialized dramas need time to reach their potential, which explains his willingness to hand freshman series a second season, but if he feels a show won’t go to the next level, he doesn’t have much trepidation about pulling the plug. (Albrecht did, however, regret the Kelsey Grammer drama Boss not getting a satisfying closure at the end of its two-season run the way Magic City did.) “TV shows are assets, not shrines,” he said. “You put them on; if they do the job, you keep them, if they don’t, you don’t.” Read More »
At the top of Starz‘s TCA session, CEO Chris Albrecht did his semi-annual State Of The Network overview, laying out his programming plans for the next year. Starz will continue to push into original programming, which accounts for almost half of Starz’s top telecasts despite representing only 5% of the pay cable’s network schedule and has fueled Starz’s streak of eight consecutive quarters of subscriber growth. First off this year is the January 25 premiere of pirate drama Black Sails, which already has been renewed for a second season — a move Albrecht called “a good and economically responsible” decision following the enthusiastic response at Comic-Con. It will be followed by the second season of Da Vinci’s Demons, which Albrecht announced will premiere on March 22; the contemporary crime underworld drama Power in late spring; and Ron Moore’s adaptation of the blockbuster Outlander books in Q3. Starz had originally slotted Sky Atlantic’s upcoming drama series Fortitude for the fourth quarter. Last month, Starz pulled out of the project because of its changed filming schedule. The network put several internal projects on fast track — including ballet drama Flesh And Bone, which already has been casting and has hired a choreographer; Survivor’s Remorse, exec produced by LeBron James; and WonderWorld, set in Ronald Reagan’s America — and Albrecht today said he plans to make a decision on which one would fill the Q3 series slot within the next couple of weeks. Read More »
Investors who want to know whether Starz is a good bet will hear CEO Chris Albrecht’s sales pitch at a meeting later today. But based on his comments to CNBC’s David Faber this morning, they can expect to hear him vigorously defend his strategy to replace some of his Hollywood … Read More »
Starz has looked like takeover bait since January when Liberty Media spun off the premium networks company. And investment bankers “of every shape, color, and size have come to us to talk about their best ideas,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told investors this morning at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. But “there hasn’t been anything yet that makes sense to us.” So he continues to plug ahead with a strategy to boost the number of original shows Starz airs, and expand the number of platforms where the networks he controls are offered. Next year Starz should have about 50 hours of originals — and Albrecht says he’d like to increase that to about 75 hours, close to what HBO offers. “HBO has a lot of everything, including money.” He’s not certain how long it will take to get there because “those decisions haven’t been made yet” and the company’s tentative plans provide opportunities for it to “press pause” if shows fail to perform as well as he expects. A lot depends on the deals Starz can make to co-produce new series, or licence them, overseas.
Michael Thornton moves into a new position that will oversee network sales, affiliate marketing, and the distribution business that includes Anchor Bay Entertainment, Starz Worldwide Distribution, and Starz Digital Media. He’ll be based in Englewood, Colo. offices and report … Read More »
The project to be announced “soon” will be the first half-hour sitcom developed by Starz since CEO Chris Albrecht took charge in 2010, he told analysts today. (Earlier Starz had comedies including Head Case, Party Down, and Gravity.) But it doesn’t … Read More »
One day after HBO execs said they would not telecast the pilot for a drama series James Gandolfini filmed shortly before his death, the former head of HBO was asked at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013 to say something about the actor, who died last month of a heart attack at age 51. Starz chief Chris Albrecht, who’d headed programming at HBO when The Sopranos was picked up, with Gandolfini cast in the lead role, responded: “Gandolfini was part of years and experience and a project that changed my life and changed everybody’s lives that were intimately involved with it… He was an extraordinarily talented man, and in my opinion nobody has ever been better in anything than James was in The Sopranos. And he was a very nice man.” Read More »
At the top of Starz‘s TCA presentation, the network’s topper Chris Albrecht announced a second-season renewal for the Michael Bay-produced Black Sails ahead of the pirate drama’s January debut. Albrecht said the network brass were already high on the series and had opened the writers room to start working on scripts for a second season when a strong reaction to Black Sails at Comic-Con solidified the renewal decision. “We thought that Michael Bay, (creator/showrunner) Jon Steinberg and their teams deserved all the time; these shows are massive undertakings and an early renewal gives them the opportunity to prepare for the second season the same way they prepared for the first, and it gives us the opportunity to keep the show on a 12-month cycle,” Albrecht said. Starz has a habit of giving shows a second season renewal before the premiere, it did it with Boss, Magic City and Spartacus. Additionally, Starz has picked up Stephen Poliakoff’s five-part BBC miniseries Dancing On The Edge, which will air on Starz in late fall. It is about a black jazz band in London in the early 1930s. The goal for next year is to have 50 hours of original programming, Albrechts said.
The bump came mostly from option awards which Starz‘s former parent, Liberty Media, was eager to award last year. The company feared that the feds might tinker with the corporate tax deduction for performance-based pay “in response to … Read More »
Starz CEO Chris Albrecht gave a brief state of the network at the opening of Starz‘s portion of TCA’s press tour. He addressed the company’s pending spinoff from Liberty Media. “This month Starz will become … Read More »
At the top of Starz’s portion of the TCA summer press tour, the network’s president and CEO was asked about the decision to end the costume drama Spartacus after the upcoming third season. Albrecht said he joined Starz when the network was editing the first season of the show. “When I saw the ending of the first season, I said: ‘Uh-oh’, Spartacus just exited the franchise; it exited the Upstairs, Downstairs aspect of gladiators and Romans living together”. With the gladiators taking to the hills and the Romans in town, “we had to tell two distinct stories, and that is never the ultimate way to do a TV series”, Albrecht said. The series also had to deal with the departure of beloved original star Andy Whitfield. “Ultimately, rather than trying to string the story with one more argument, one more villain showing up, we decided to follow the historic trajectory and bring Spartacus’ story to an end. Better leave viewers wanting more than diminish the overall impact of the franchise”.
Spartacus creator Steven S. DeKnight, who is under an overall deal at Starz, is already working on his next project for the pay cable network. “Steven just returned from Hawaii where he shot ‘proof of concept’ for a show he’s developed”, Albrecht said. That show is sci-fi drama Incursion, which Albrecht described as “Band of Brothers meets Halo” and involves a lot of creatures.
Albrecht also gave an update on Starz’s upcoming series. Da Vinci’s Demons, which is currently in production, is eyed for the end of first quarter or second quarter of 2013. The series stars Tom Riley as young Leonardo Da Vinci. The Michael Bay-produced pirate drama Black Sails is currently in pre-production in South Africa where standing sets are being erected with the goal to also build one or two boats. The series is looking at a launch in early 2014, possibly inheriting the Spartacus slot. Read More »
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 … Read More »
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 »
On the heels of their collaboration on Torchwood: Miracle Day, Starz Entertainment and BBC Worldwide Prods have signed a multi-year production agreement. Under the deal, the two companies will co-develop and co-finance multiple series that will be produced by BBC … Read More »
Starz Entertainment has hired longtime HBO executive Russell Schwartz to be its SVP Business & Legal Affairs. He will be based in Los Angeles, where he will help spearhead the company’s growing Starz Originals and TV production business, which has been … Read More »
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.
My pal Claudia Eller has a funny little scoop on the LA Times website about how Starz chief Chris Albrecht made a Blackberry mistake that led to Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett’s exit from Overture. (So I gotta ask: is this why moguls like Alan Horn and Ron Meyer refuse … Read More »