Starz Offers New Original Drama 'Power' for Early Digital Purchase in U.K.
The first episode of the show from Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson is available on Amazon, iTunes and other platforms Monday with a linear TV run in Britain still possible as Starz is holding out for a price tag it feels the show deserves.
LONDON -- Starz Digital Media unit in a company first is offering new original drama Power via early electronic sell-through (EST) on various digital platforms in the U.K.
For the drama from executive producer Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Starz has not struck a TV network or subscription video on-demand service deal in Britain so far, but it said digital sales could lead to an agreement of that sort. It said the show's young target audience created demand from digital players and made it a natural for such an experiment.
The first hourlong episode of the show will be available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, blinkbox, Google Play, Sony Entertainment Network and Xbox Video on Monday after Saturday's U.S. premiere on Starz.
"Enthusiasm from our digital partners in the United Kingdom for the latest Starz Original series Power led us to give U.K. fans a unique opportunity to purchase episodes the next business day after their respective worldwide premieres," said Mara Winokur, senior vp digital at Starz Digital Media. "Power is a contemporary drama that will especially appeal to younger demographic audiences."
She added: "Coupled with strong cross-promotional interest from our partners for Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's recently released new album, Animal Ambition, which features select songs from Power, and interest in this market is piqued for the hot new series."
Will the early sell-through availability reduce the likelihood of a TV or subscription VOD run? "I really don't think it's cannibalistic," Starz chief revenue officer Michael Thornton told THR. "We actually think it may go the other way. It may create more awareness and sort of reignite or get those discussions … going."
He told THR that Starz has held talks with all the usual suspects about a linear TV and SVOD run. "We feel very strongly about the show and its value," he said. "We didn't just throw it out there to throw it out there. We are still in discussions, but we haven't gotten what we think it deserves."
Echoed Winokur: "We believe in the show and think it will be successful on transactional, even without the awareness of linear TV. And we think linear will now be more interested than they would have been before. We are still talking about linear deals, but we wanted to get the show out there."
She added: "Some networks might have thought it's a little riskier, so we're going to wait a little or they weren't willing to pay what we thought it's worth, so we went the other way. We think the EST will far surpass what the EST would have and will turn into a network or SVOD that is better for everyone. We think it will work out better in the long run."
Asked about why Britain makes sense for such an experiment, she told THR: "We're trying different models. The U.K. market is evolving a little faster than some of the other international markets, maybe because of its size. It's also an easier market for us, because [people] speak English. They are closely associated with the U.S. and hear very quickly about what happens in the U.S."
"For the last couple of series, we have tried different models," she explained. "We are not rejecting the old traditional model of linear broadcast [followed by] electronic sell-through and DVD. For Black Sails, we went out on Amazon [for subscription VOD] because we thought that platform was a very good fit for it, and it was. We have never gone out just transactionally without having had SVOD or a linear TV player in the U.K. But 50 Cent has a huge following online. They are a little bit younger, and they tend to be more digitally focused, and they want content immediately and take it with them."
New episodes of Power will be made available for individual purchase in the U.K. every Monday following the Saturday-night premiere airing on Starz in the U.S. Discounted full-season purchases are also available. The first season of Power consists of eight episodes.
Power is set in the New York club and drug scenes. James "Ghost" St. Patrick has it all: a beautiful wife, a gorgeous Manhattan penthouse and the hottest, up-and-coming new nightclub in New York, according to a show description. His club, Truth, caters to the famous and infamous and is a front for a lucrative drug network.
"As Ghost is seduced by the prospect of a legitimate life, everything precious to him becomes unknowingly threatened. Once you're in, can you ever get out?" the show description reads.
The cast is led by Omari Hardwick (Sparkle, For Colored Girls, Kick Ass). The series was created by Courtney Kemp Agboh (The Good Wife). Mark Canton (300, Immortals, 300: Rise of an Empire), Randall Emmett (2 Guns, Lone Survivor) and David Knoller (Carnivale) also serve as executive producers.