Starz Wants Broadband Bundle, Too

CEO Says High-Margin Premium Channel a Perfect Partner

Comcast’s testing of a new offering that would pair premium channel Home Box Office with broadband for $40 per month has Starz CEO Chris Albrecht hungry to get in on the deal.

Comcast said last week that it is testing “Internet Plus,” a package that includes HBO, a few cable channels and 20 Megabit per second to 25 Mbps broadband service for $40 per month for the first year.  After that, the price rises to about $70 per month.

In a conference call with analysts to discuss its third quarter results, Albrecht said the Internet Plus package is something Starz “has been asking for, for awhile.”

“We certainly hope that other distributors will look at that. I think that shows the value of these brands and how historically they have pulled through and cemented in a lot of technologies,” Albrecht continued. “We think there is an opportunity for Starz there as well.”

Albrecht wasn’t as optimistic about reports that video streaming giant Netflix was talking to distributors about an app for the set-top box.

“I’m not sure when Netflix can expect to be bundled into the set-top box,” Albrecht said. “That could be a long road, if ever. I think there are a lot of reasons why cable operators would not want to do that, including the fact they have higher margin products they can sell on their own platforms that bring a much more robust cumulative amount of programming to the consumer in earlier windows.”

Albrecht added that Starz continues to target producing 50 hours of original programming per year by 2014, with an eye to increasing that to 75 hours in the future. While Starz has had success with a number of originals, including Da Vinci’s Demons and TheWhite Queen, it also has several new shows in production including Power, a drama from rapper Curtis “50-Cent” Jackson, and Outlander from Battlestar Galactica producer Ronald D. Moore. Shows in development include Survivor’s Remorse, a comedy executive produced by NBA star LeBron James and WonderWorld, an FBI drama from actor Owen Wilson and Law & Order’s Rene Balcer.

Albrecht said the goal for Starz originals is not to produce merely raw hours, but shows that become part of the cultural conversation.