Lionsgate TV's Kevin Beggs Says Starz Integration Is "Accelerating"

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Lionsgate TV Group chairman Kevin Beggs

As Starz CEO Chris Albrecht heads for the exit, Lionsgate is more quickly merging respective TV divisions.

Lionsgate TV topper Kevin Beggs on Monday said the integration of his Hollywood studio and Starz, the premium channel acquired two years ago for $4.4 billion, has suddenly picked up pace.

"It moved a little slower than I had hoped for," the Lionsgate TV Group chairman told the 2019 Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference during a session that was webcast. Any logjam to integration has apparently disappeared, Beggs added.

"In last few weeks, some of the integration that I thought would happen more quickly is accelerating, in a good way," he reported. The Lionsgate and Starz TV operations will integrate more closely, including for production financing, casting and music commissioning.

Starz initially operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Lionsgate, but Beggs said the days of their respective operations moving on "parallel paths" have ended. "Not only will it be efficient economically, but it will be really productive creatively," he told investors.

Beggs' appearance at the Palm Beach, Florida, confab follows Chris Albrecht getting set to leave Starz over an apparent reluctance to cede precious shelf space for original programming to Lionsgate TV originals. Jeff Hirsch, COO of the premium cable channel, will now oversee Starz as it continues to integrate with Lionsgate.

Not long after Lionsgate unveiled the Starz deal in late 2016, it announced its first series order from Lionsgate TV, The Rook. Beggs said the development and production pipeline from Lionsgate TV, as it combines operations with Starz, will now gather pace. He touted other Starz series to be folded into his own operation, including Power spinoffs from a new deal with Courtney A. Kemp, creator and showrunner of the popular drama.

Away from the Starz orbit, Lionsgate TV through the studio's stake in 3Arts Entertainment has completed first-season production on an untitled comedy from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day.

The studio is also at work on a musical drama pilot, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, starring Mary Steenburgen and Jane Levy, for NBC. And there's a soon-to-be announced romantic comedy for WarnerMedia's new streaming platform that also nabbed a straight-to-series order.

That stepped-up TV development and production is taking place as Lionsgate TV looks for a franchise hit to replace Orange Is the New Black, which is set to end a successful run on Netflix, and against an industry backdrop where series demand from streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon is growing while basic cable is retrenching in the scripted space.

Broadcast TV, by contrast, continues to double down on scripted series, Beggs argued. "Broadcast is doing as much as they've ever done, and maybe more, and buying from outside suppliers," he observed.