Starz CEO Chris Albrecht last week gave the go-ahead for a second season of Magic City, ahead of the
April 6 linear debut of the 1950s Miami hotel drama from creator Mitch Glazer. Albrecht, the former
head of HBO, is overseeing a growing stable of originals — notably gladiator series Spartacus: Vengeance
and political show Boss, which earned Kelsey Grammer a Golden Globe — aimed at boosting
the Starz brand and subscriber rolls, which grew by 600,000 in the fourth quarter. Albrecht spoke with
Multichannel News online news editor Mike Reynolds about Magic City, TV Everywhere and the state of the pay TV
industry. An edited transcript follows:
MCN: This is the third time Starz has
renewed a series before its linear launch.
I’m not sure if that’s an industry first, but
it’s interesting nevertheless. What do you
like about Magic City?
Chris Albrecht: We love the world, love
the cast. Mitch Glazer did a really good
job. We’ve already put together a writing
staff for next year. Mitch did all the
writing for the first year. We’re putting
more resources into the show. The work
deserves to be supported. One of the benefi
ts of being in premium television is that
you don’t have a scorecard that’s kind of
an exit poll and base all your decisions
from that. It’s emblematic of the brand
we’re looking to build at Starz.
MCN: How does Magic City exemplify the
CA: I like the shows at Starz to take audiences
to another world, if you will, to
be transported into a place they want to
spend time in, come back weekly and
watch the show or all at once on-demand.
I think it’s fun, very theatrical, film-like in the way it looks
and the way it’s shot. It’s very entertaining. We would like our
brand to be something that has those consistent elements
to it, not necessarily trying to do dark, deep heavy drama or
light comedy. We’re out to do these cinematic-type shows.
MCN: In your remarks about the renewal, you said Magic
City has been sold into 70 territories. How important is that
consideration for your series, and how does that stack up
with Spartacus: Vengeance?
CA: Th e international market
is increasingly important as
you look to invest more money
in programming. These shows
are not cheap. The ancillary
markets, which in this case
are international and home
entertainment in the U.S.,
those are places we can off set
significant portions of the cost
of the shows. We’re very confident that Magic City will end
up performing at the top rung
of how these shows need to
MCN: How pleased are you
with the domestic audience
performance of Spartacus: Vengeance and Boss?
CA: We’re pleased that people are watching. Spartacus: Vengeance
was a risk in a certain respect. We made the decision
to not only recast the lead character, but the title. That’s fairly
unusual in television. We’re really happy the audience didn’t
just stay with us, but came back.
We knew going in with Boss that there was going to be
a bit of a marketing challenge. We’re looking forward
to bringing the show back with more notoriety, now that
Kelsey [Grammer, in the lead role] won the Golden Globe
and the show was nominated. I think a lot
more people are aware of the show.
It’s always a challenge for a premium
network to launch a show in the fourth
quarter when so many other things are
launching. It’s a veryy cluttered environment.
MCN: Do you have a start date?
CA: It will be on the air sometime in the
MCN: You’re doing some
interesting things with multiple
episodes of Magic City being available
across different platforms. How
important is sampling for premium
CA: It’s something that’s been tried for a
while with a first episode. To my knowledge,
no one has done what we’re doing
with three episodes, and in opening it
up beyond our affiliates’ closed systems
and putting it on the open Internet with
some pixellation and bleeping of some
words. This is a really good way to get a jump-start and let
people know it’s out there.
MCN: Is there an ideal number of original hours you want to
CA: We’ve said we would like to have about 50 hours a year.
It would be great to have one new hour of original programming
a week. For premiums, the way you program them
across the week, across the plexes and the on-demand platforms,
that’s a great model for us for the time being.
MCN: You have TV Everywhere
deals with Comcast, Dish and
AT&T U-verse. Where do you
stand with other distributors?
CA: Some of our affiliates have
authenticated rights that they’ve
negotiated for with us already.
And the affiliates that don’t, all
seem to be interested. So, as discussions
go on for extensions,
renewals, new deals, whatever,
certainly there isn’t anybody out
there that isn’t interested in authentication
to their own platforms
or interested in the Starz
authenticated platform we’re
MCN: Starz added 600,000 subscribers in the fourth
quarter. Your rivals in the space also did well. So much for
cord-cutting in the premium world …
CA: I think these brands in the premium space are very
strong, with good companies behind them, investing a lot of
money in content. They pull through a lot of other products
for the affiliates. Starz, in particular, has a good story to tell
because it hasn’t been as widely distributed. We look forward
to seeing the whole category grow.