Starz Eyes Authentication Product

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Starz LLC will launch a TV Everywhere-like authentication product next year, CEO Chris Albrecht said at parent company Liberty Media's annual Investor Day meeting in New York.

The authentication product, likely similar to the popular HBO Go offering of its premium TV rival Home Box Office, is just one of the ongoing efforts by Starz to differentiate itself in the ever-crowded content landscape. Albrecht added that Starz also has set a goal of airing 50 hours of original programming per year by 2014.

Starz topper Chris Albrecht

Starz already is more than halfway toward its original programming goal -- it recently renewed the critically acclaimed drama Boss starring veteran actor Kelsey Grammer, and it re-upped its highly rated sword-and-sandal Spartacus franchise for another year ahead of the January 2012 premiere of the latest installment in the series, Spartacus: Vengeance. 1950's drama Magic City is scheduled to premiere in 2012 with historical drama Da Vinci's Demons making its debut in 2013.

Albrecht said Starz's original programming ethos is simple: developing series with a theatrical scope and experience, and airing shows that are entertaining, larger than life and have a broad appeal.

Other initiatives include landing new online deals, expanding its original programming output to 50 hours per year by 2014 and exploring new distribution opportunites.

Albrecht also elaborated on one deal Starz decided not to make - renewing its agreement with Netflix -- a move that opened the premium channel to some criticism. Albrecht said the decision not to renew with Netflix was a "pricing and packaging" decision, adding that it would have negatively impacted earnings within two or three years.
"It was a big-boy choice; it was a grown-up choice," Albrecht said of the decision not to renew.

Starz's drama Boss

Although Netflix is no longer an option, Albrecht added that Starz sees opportunities in several other areas, including high-speed data-only video service and out-of-footprint offerings from multichannel video programming distributors.

Albrecht said that Starz has the rights to provide content to out-of-footprint offerings from MVPDs, adding it would only do so if it found the right and appropriate situation. High-speed data-only video is an idea Starz "loves," he added, especially in light of the current economic malaise.

Albrecht added that premium channels are usually the first to go when cash-strapped consumers look to curb their budgets, adding that developing a premium video package for high-speed data customers would not only retain existing customers but would attract new people to the category.

"There are millions -- not two or three million, millions -- of high-speed subscribers that don't get video from their high-speed provider," Albrecht said