Albrecht’s Growth Plan for Starz

Publish date:

New York —Premium
channel Starz will
launch a TV Everywhere-
like authenticated
platform next year,
just one of several new
moves that network
chief Chris Albrecht has
in mind.

Albrecht, kicking off
parent Liberty Media’s
annual Investor Day in
New York last Thursday
(Nov. 17) said Starz has its
sights set on landing new
online deals, expanding
its original programming
output to 50 hours
per year by 2014 and exploring new distribution

Starz already is more than halfway toward
that original programming goal. It recently renewed
new Kelsey Grammer drama Boss and
re-upped the highly-rated sword-and-sandal
Spartacus franchise for another year, ahead of
the January 2012 premiere of the latest installment,
Spartacus: Vengeance. The 1950s drama
Magic City is scheduled to premiere in 2012 with
historical drama Da Vinci’s
debuting in 2013.

Albrecht said Starz’s
original programming
ethos is simple: Develop
series with a theatrical
scope and experience,
and air shows that are entertaining,
larger than life
and have a broad appeal.
Albrecht said the channel’s
bedrock remains
movies: Output deals with
The Walt Disney Co. don’t
expire until 2016, and a
deal with Sony Pictures
ends in 2017. But as those
deals and others end, and
the studios produce fewer
films, Starz’s costs decline.
Instead of pocketing that savings, Albrecht is
pumping that cash into more original programming.

He said Starz, which decided not to renew
its online content distribution deal with Netflix
earlier this year, is looking for other online
outlets and talking with companies like Google
and Amazon as well. He said that despite criticism
for not renewing the affiliate-unpopular
Netfix deal, it was “absolutely the right choice.”

“Had we made the Netflix deal, here are
some of the things that would have happened
immediately: the cost of movies
would have gone up; we would have eroded
quickly, and in big chunks, our core business,”
Albrecht said.

“Within two or three years, the Netflix
deal would have been a drag on Starz earnings,”
Albrecht said. “It was a big boy choice;
it was a grown-up choice.”

Albrecht said Starz sees opportunities in
several other areas, including a broadbandonly
video service and out-of-footprint offerings
from multichannel video distributors.

He said Starz has the rights to provide content
to out-of-footprint offerings for MVPDs
if it found the appropriate situation.

A video service packaged with a highspeed-
data subscription is an idea Starz
“loves,” he added, especially with the current
economic malaise.

“If people are threatened economically and
want to keep their television from their MVPD
provider, the first thing that pops offthe top
is premium television,” Albrecht said. “If we
were able to create packages where premium
television is on top of HSD, we would be able
to keep people in the category; we would be
able to bring new people into the category.
There are millions — not 2 or 3 million, millions
— of high-speed subscribers that don’t
get video from their high-speed provider.”