Liberty Media CEO: Starz Is in No Rush to Cut a New Netflix Deal
Greg Maffei also touts the benefits of Starz Media's new agreement with the Weinstein Co.
NEW YORK -- Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said Wednesday that Starz is in no rush to reach a new online streaming deal with Netflix after recent suggestions that a new arrangement could come sooner rather than later.
Netflix is an important partner, and Liberty-controlled pay TV service Starz talks to its executives at least weekly, if not daily, he said.
But with their current arrangement, for which many say Starz got too little money, believed to run through late this year, Maffei said there is no benefit in rushing things.
"There is no need to re-cut the deal, and there is plenty of time to extend and create a new deal -- or not and do something else," Maffei told a Citi conference for media and entertainment investors. "I'm not sure why it's in our interest to go prematurely cut a deal."
Instead, the company must in its decision process focus on doing the right thing for its business and consumers and considering Netflix along with other emerging players, such as Google or Amazon.com, while avoiding undue conflict with traditional distributors, he said.
BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield earlier this week suggested that Starz could strike a new Netflix streaming deal in the first quarter or soon thereafter for a higher price tag.
Do the decisions of Time Warner's HBO about how to position itself in the future in the premium TV category affect Starz?
"HBO is in a very different position" given that its revenue and profit are multiples of Starz's, Maffei suggested. "They have a lot of market power and a lot of demand to do interesting things," he added, without making specific predictions.
Asked about the reluctance of TW CEO Jeff Bewkes to work with Netflix too much, Maffei simply called Bewkes a smart executive.
Asked if premium TV network providers could market their offers directly to consumers in the future, Maffei replied that this would require scale. Liberty tried that years ago with Vongo, but felt it was too early and small.
HBO may have enough clout to pull such a feat off alone, but most likely no premium TV service will do something along those lines by itself, Maffei predicted.
Asked about Starz Media's distribution deal with and sale of a 25% stake to the Weinstein Company a day earlier, Maffei said DVD distributor Anchor Bay needed a library to work with after the company's sale of Overture Films. TWC titles will likely be stronger and more appealing than Overture's, they could attract additional partners in the future, and the "low-risk" deal will likely be profitable for Starz, Maffei said.
Asked to review how Starz has been doing since former HBO boss Chris Albrecht took it over, Maffei lauded him for having created "a lot of positive momentum" and made "a lot of positive changes."