Starz Beefs up Programming With Focus on Kids, Spanish-Language Content

Starz art - H 2017
Courtesy of Starz

The premium TV company, owned by Lionsgate, plans to grow its app, on-demand and OTT content offerings by 40 percent to 7,700 titles by year's end.

Lionsgate-owned premium TV firm Starz is betting on kids and Spanish-language content as it continues to expand the programming lineup on its Starz cable subscription VOD, app and over-the-top services.

The strategy is part of the company’s focus on targeting underserved audiences.

With more than 1 million subscribers since its launch in spring 2016, the company's app, which offers a stand-alone subscription streaming service for $8.99 per month, has provided Starz originals, including Power, Outlander and American Gods, and acquired fare. But the company says it has "significantly invested in its app and OTT programming over the past 14 months, growing its content offering by more than 125 percent to 5,500 titles." It says the focus has been on the acquisition of "strategically complementary programming that reinforces the Starz value proposition."

Starz says it has now committed to further grow its app/on-demand/OTT content offerings by 40 percent to nearly 7,700 by the end of the year. Its plans call for the addition of more than 60 kids series, including AlfGarfield and Friends, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, TV specials The Cat in the Hat, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller and Naruto, to boost its offering from more than 1,250 kids TV episodes and movies to more than 2,000.

Spanish-language content on the Starz app is expected to reach more than 700 items by year's end with the addition of movies, including Pedro Almodovar's I’m So Excited, No starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Chico and Rita, as well as telenovelas and kids series.  

The Starz app has already added such kids TV series as Bob The Builder, Thomas and Friends, Inspector Gadget, The Adventures of Paddington Bear, Eloise, The Animated SeriesSonic The Hedgehog, Sabrina, The Animated Series and Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot, as well as nearly 300 Spanish-language movies and telenovela episodes, including Colombian series El Cartel de los Sapos and La Promesa

Pay TV distributors can provide the OTT programming to their Starz subscribers through their on-demand platforms. And Starz subscribers from participating pay TV partners can authenticate and view Starz content in the app.

"Starz continues to invest in programming for Starz subscribers to continue to reinforce the best value proposition in the marketplace today," says Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch. "With both streaming and download viewing options, the Starz app offers flexibility and is a tremendous value proposition for all ages and audiences that enjoy premium, commercial-free viewing."

"We have really worked on serving underserved audiences with such originals as Power and Outlander," with female and African-American viewers in focus, Hirsch told THR. "In the next 12-24 months, you'll start to see us add a third segment, Hispanic audiences. As we start to roll out originals that are focused on that community, having broad programming around it is important to help bolster our originals. It's about having a great value proposition that reinforces the value they are getting from Starz." 

Hirsch said subscribers often sign up for Starz, because of its originals, but retaining them is helped by additional programming that provides added value. "We have more movies than Showtime and HBO," Hirsch said. "We have a wider selection of kids content than any of our competitors."

The executive also highlighted that Starz doesn't need exclusive content to broaden its offerings. "We focus on the consumer perspective. Consumers sign up for Power or so. And once they are in there, they see a broad array of kids content," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's exclusive or not. They don't need to go anywhere else to get kids content. Because we are taking a non-exclusive approach to that content, we have gone out to get known, timeless great kids content with brand recognition so that parents could feel safe."  

Hirsch also emphasized that with Starz now being a Lionsgate company, the studio's relationships help Starz with its programming strategy. "There are a lot of relationships we have with global content producers, so we have access to a lot of different content source providers," he said.

Hirsch emphasized that beefing up Starz's content with a focus on kids and Spanish-language programming doesn't distract the executive team from the core mission of developing appealing original fare. Said Hirsch: "Our focus has been and continues to be on driving more premium scripted original series for underserved audiences."