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NEW YORK — Netflix’s online streaming service and whether the company is a friend or foe for Hollywood came up here Friday at Liberty Media’s investor day as it has so often at recent industry gatherings with Wall Street attendees.
Asked if Liberty’s Starz would accept the kind of deal that Epix recently got from Netflix, which agreed to pay about $200 million a year in a five-year agreement, Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht said the answer is less clear-cut than it seems.
“There are so many aspects of the deal” beyond the price tag, he said. Some elements, Starz wouldn’t be able to do due to rights issues, he added without providing more details.
With the current Starz-Netflix deal expiring next year, Albrecht signaled that his firm is about to engage in conversations with Netflix about a possible renewal.
But he said in general, his team wants to be open to many potential online partners, including some that may not be established players yet. “It’s not a necessity,” he said when discussing how important it would be to continue the Netflix relationship.
Any decisions must be carefully weighed and analyzed with their longer-term impact in mind, he added.
Liberty chairman John Malone also opined on moving content to the Web.
The broader availability of content online “could potentially be either a windfall or very damaging to the current monetization scheme” of content owners and their distribution partners, Malone told investors. He said distributing content online through current distributors would “probably be optimal” for all involved.
“The public typically thinks everything on the Web should be free,” Malone also argued.
And Netflix has done “a fabulous job” figuring out a mechanism to charge people for Web access without making them realize that, he suggested.
What remains unclear at this stage is if studios and content companies really want to help Netflix become another powerful HBO-type intermediary, Malone argued.
“That’s still an open question,” he said, calling Time Warner the key player due to its large copyright holdings and ownership of HBO.
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