The premium networks company had a lot to crow about in the period including the success of its series The White Queen. But it’s still growing, and that resulted in investments that prevented much of the additional cash coming in from reaching the bottom line. Starz reported net income of $52.2M, -7.4%, even though revenues rose 11.2% to $446.1M. That number topped the $406.1M that analysts expected. But earnings per share at 43 cents were a penny shy of the consensus forecast. The Starz network ended the quarter with 22M subscribers, +5.8% vs last year, while Encore had 35M, +2%. Revenues at the networks operation were basically flat at $319.9M as higher rates were partially offset by fewer subs under “consignment agreements,” the company says. But Starz Distribution revenues were +56.8% to $117.6M with help from agreements to distribute The Weinstein Company titles and AMC’s The Walking Dead. But outlays for investments in films and TV programs increase 67% to $110.1M. “We are in the early stages of executing on our strategy to create compelling original programming that when combined with exclusive first-run movies offers a significant value proposition for our distributors and consumers,” CEO Chris Albrecht says.
UPDATE, 8:40 AM: Now we can add the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD to the devices that can receive Starz Play, Encore Play, and Movieplex Play programming from participating distributors. The new apps are available for free at the Amazon Appstore for Android.
The change will turn Starz into a separate, publicly traded company. That should “provide better transparency on the Starz operating business” and “optimize the Starz capital structure,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei says this morning. In addition, it could become easier for Liberty and Starz to use their shares for acquisitions — even as it preserves for Liberty “all our options with respect to Sirius XM and Live Nation,” companies in which it has substantial investments. Liberty investors will receive shares of Starz as a dividend. The new company will include all of Starz’ assets as well as $1.5B in debt and “an undetermined amount of cash.” The transaction, expected to close late this year, is designed to be tax free — a key consideration in deals by Liberty Chairman John Malone — but is contingent on a letter from the IRS verifying that fact. Although it will need the usual approval by anti-trust officials, it will not require a stock holder vote.
EXCLUSIVE: The one-year pact between indie production and distribution studio The Asylum and Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment UK covers a guaranteed 10 titles for release in the UK across multiple platforms. Burbank-based The Asylum is known for so-called “mockbusters” with recent titles like Paranormal Entity; Titanic II and Grimm’s Snow White. The company produces 15-20 such films a year for TV, DVD and VOD. Upcoming projects include American Battleship and Bigfoot, which will premiere on Syfy in the US, Adopting Terror to air on Lifetime in June and theatrical/VOD pictures Nazis At The Center Of The Earth and Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies. “The Asylum are one of the most creative, exciting and dynamic production companies operating in the film industry today,” says Anchor Bay UK acquisitions director Rod Smith. “They don’t just tap in to the social zeitgeist, they drill into it and mine it for all its riches and make some of most entertaining and talked about films around. Love them or loathe them but you can’t ignore them.” The Asylum will start production in July on its latest timely mockbuster, Age Of The Hobbits.
This deal does not interfere with Lionsgate’s commitment to Epix, where the company is a founding partner. It gives Starz first pay library window on Lionsgate movies after Epix.
Santa Monica, Calif. and Englewood, Colo. – February 2, 2012 – Lionsgate® (NYSE: LGF), a leading diversified global entertainment company, and Starz Entertainment, LLC, a leading premium pay TV company operating 17 premium movie channels in the United States, today announced a new multiyear film licensing agreement that will bring more than 500 Lionsgate movies to the Starz Entertainment premium channels and services.
The comprehensive new agreement is Lionsgate’s first long-term library deal with Starz Entertainment and will provide a significant supply of quality movie programming across all platforms for the STARZ, ENCORE, and MOVIEPLEX premium channels, in addition to the related HD, On Demand, HD On Demand, and online advanced services.
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,” …
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.
UPDATE, 12: 00 PM: No word from Starz execs about when they might announce a digital streaming deal to replace the one with Netflix, which expires in February. “There are a lot of conversations going on,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told analysts today. “It’s a road that needs to be evaluated almost on a weekly basis.” The company hopes to license programs from its premium channel to a premium-priced streaming service – meaning, one that charges more than Netflix. As more companies enter the online video market “they’ll begin to segment and differentiate,” says Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei. “That’s something we would embrace.” Albrecht said that “we didn’t believe it was appropriate to have our products included in a low-cost service.” Do they really expect lots of consumers to pay high prices in this weak economy — especially with the anemic numbers cable and satellite companies are posting for premium channels? At Starz the 3Q sub figure was
Eric Becker has been promoted to Vice President of Corporate Communications for Starz Entertainment and Starz Media. In this role, Becker is responsible for corporate communications for the Starz Entertainment and Starz Media businesses, including Worldwide Distribution, Starz Digital Media divisions and other holdings. He is charged with incorporating PR strategy for the various Starz business units and his responsibilities include media relations and corporate affairs.
New York, NY – September 7, 2011 – Starz Digital Media, the digital and on-demand licensing arm of Starz, elevated two key executives with the promotions of Mara Winokur to the position of senior vice president, digital media, business development and strategy at Starz Media, a position that makes her the new head of the division, and David Katz, to vice president, digital media with new and expanded business responsibilities. The announcement was made by Ed Huguez, executive vice president, affiliate sales and marketing for Starz.
Liberty Media chairman John Malone is probably getting an earful from his pals in the cable industry this afternoon after he made a comment that’s sure to haunt both him and them. Talking to Wall Street analysts about the growing number of consumers who buy high-speed Internet services from cable companies, Malone said that “cable is pretty much a monopoly now” in broadband. Oops. The executive who once was considered such a monopolist in cable TV that Al Gore referred to him as Darth Vader caught himself, adding, “I don’t want to use that word.” But he may be reminded that he used the M word every time consumer advocates call on federal regulators to crack down on cable — for example, by insisting on net neutrality rules. Malone says consumers won’t cut the cord with cable even as services including Netflix offer movies and TV shows over the Web. Phone companies such as Verizon and AT&T “are not going to aggressively” build out fiber-optic services that could match the speed and security of cable’s broadband, he said. Meanwhile, “the threat of wireless broadband is way overblown. There just isn’t enough bandwidth” for them.
In contrast to Malone’s blunt comments, other Liberty executives said they wouldn’t provide many details about Starz’s new lawsuit against Dish Network. Starz, and in a separate suit Disney, allege that Dish violated their contracts by giving satellite customers free access to the premium channel for about a year. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht says that his company didn’t lose money; Dish pays a fixed annual rate to offer Starz and Encore. But the additional viewers may have helped Starz’s ratings.
Starz Entertainment and Comcast have inked a new multiyear, multiplatform carriage deal, which includes distribution of Starz’s 16 linear premium movie channels and related high-definition services as well as a new, authentication-based online movie service launching later this summer. The agreement replaces separate, existing Comcast deals for Starz and Encore.