Chris Albrecht named president, CEO of Starz

To oversee Starz, Overture Films, Anchor Bay Entertainment

The man who developed "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" is returning to pay cable.

Former HBO chief Chris Albrecht has been tapped as the new president and CEO of Starz by the pay channel's parent, Liberty Media.

Albrecht spent more than 20 years at HBO, including seven as president of original programming, and is credited for launching several hit series. He will oversee all Starz entities, including the network, Overture Films and Anchor Bay Entertainment.

The move signals that Starz is serious about increasing its scripted programming and following in the footsteps of HBO and Showtime. Albrecht said he wants to create a distinct programming brand for Starz, though he added that the nature of that identity is being determined.

"At HBO I came up through the programming ranks," Albrecht said. "Here I'm coming in as CEO, and my first step is to understand all the working parts of the company and make an assessment of how to create another distinct brand in the pay-TV category."

A premium network best known for running movies, Starz has made a recent push into scripted programming with the drama series "Crash," the comedy "Party Down" and the upcoming "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." Starz has already renewed "Spartacus" for a second season before its Jan. 22 debut; the renewal decision predates the Albrecht hire, though he called the action-drama "a really interesting show that has a lot of possibilities and is very watchable."

Albrecht will succeed Robert Clasen, who is retiring at year's end.

"We are excited to have an industry leader with an exceptional track record join the Starz team," said Greg Maffei, Liberty Media's president and CEO. "With his extensive experience and success in creating compelling original content and building a premium pay channel, Chris is a recognized visionary in the creative community and uniquely qualified to lead Starz into the future."

Albrecht abruptly left HBO in 2007 in the wake of an assault incident in Las Vegas involving a girlfriend and subsequently spent a year at talent agency and investment fund IMG. He most recently ran Foresee Entertainment. The executive said his time spent away from a network has been valuable.

"Having been on the inside at HBO and then having had the opportunity to sit on the outside and see the challenges facing media companies, it's given me a unique perspective," Albrecht said. "I'm coming in with a more grown-up and mature approach; hopefully I'm a little wiser."