Starz Eyes 75 Hours Of Originals in 3-5 Years

Premium Channel Expects To Air 50 Hours of Original Content Next Year

Despite the incessant pounding of investment bankers on his doors, anxious to regale him with their latest takeover deal for premium channel Starz, CEO Chris Albrecht said the channel will focus on creating original content, with an eye toward 75 hours of programming per year in the future.

Starz, which was spun off as a separate company from Liberty Media in January,  has been a target of merger speculation ever since the split. At the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York Tuesday, Albrecht said “investment bankers of every shape, color and size have come to us to talk about their best ideas.” So far, he added, “there hasn’t been anything yet that seems to make sense to us.”

So Albrecht, who had headed premium channel Home Box Office before joining Starz in 2010,  continues to focus on beefing his network’s original programming, adding that next year Starz should have about 50 hours of original shows, with an eye toward 75 hours -- is about the same original programming load as HBO and Showtime – in three-to- five years.

“How soon we get there depends a lot on the state of our business,” Albrecht said.

Spending on originals also is expected to rise, but Albrecht declined to specify, adding that it depends on the type of shows and the financing. He added that Starz also reserves the right to “press pause” on any programming that is not meeting expectations.

Starz has considerably beefed up its original content lineup since Albrecht took the helm. Its originals lineup includes period drama The White Queen, jazz-period musical miniseries Dancing on the Edge,  pirate drama Black Sailsand time travel drama Outlander.

Today, it also announced that it was developing the one-hour drama Gringo. The project, inspired by The Shadow Catcher, the non-fiction book by U.S. Immigration officer Hipolito Acosta, will chronicle a Mexican-American Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, who infiltrates one of Mexico’s most deadly drug and human smuggling cartels.  Gringo is written by Starz's  “Spartacus” franchise alums Aaron Helbing and Todd Helbing and executive produced by Steve Lee Jones (You Don’t Know Jack) of Bee Holder Productions.