Starz CEO Touts Direct-to-Consumer Offering Outside the U.S.

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Starz CEO Chris Albrecht

Company head Chris Albrecht told analysts about a potential stand-alone service to rival HBO and Showtime.

Starz CEO Chris Albrecht on Tuesday talked about going direct-to-consumer outside the U.S. in the wake of bigger rivals like HBO and Showtime already leveraging the Internet with OTT apps and stand-alone services.

"We are seeing more interest and I think...if we decide to go more direct, the reason to do that for us is to say there are people out there that would buy this," he told investors at the Deutsche Bank annual media, Internet and telecom conference in an appearance that was webcast.

"You need to get it to them in more effective ways and you will see good results," Albrecht predicted. The premium network behind shows including Black Sails and Ash vs. Evil Dead first got into OTT waters by making a pact with Amazon to offer itself as an add-on service for Amazon Prime subscribers.

During a recent conference call, Albrecht said Starz is close to rolling out a stand-alone app so consumers who don't subscribe to Starz on traditional cable or satellite can pay to stream some Starz and Encore content over the Internet.

The key is targeting specific audiences, especially fanboys and female viewers with shows like The Girlfriend Experience, not served by traditional TV amid increasing cord-cutting. "The experience with Amazon reinforces that there's an appetite for our shows from people who are having a hard time paying for television, given the way the historical pay TV business has been structured," Albrecht said.

Starz also has a Middle East OTT subscription service with Starz Play Arabia, a possible prelude to a wider stand-alone service offered in territories and regions outside the U.S. That international strategy calls for monetizing rights Starz retains on original programming, and aggregating those rights around international partnerships.

"We have the ability to become partners, co-venture partners with the appropriate companies in other areas that might give us a leg-up in building platforms outside the U.S.," Albrecht said. The Starz CEO on Tuesday was also coy about ongoing discussions to possibly merge Starz with Lionsgate, two companies in billionaire investor John Malone's orbit.

"The Lionsgate thing is, there's certainly cost savings in a world of trying to aggregate content and create a content engine, having a great television production company like Lionsgate...and having a platform, those two things go together nicely," he said when asked about the commercial benefits of merging Starz and Lionsgate.

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