Starz Boss on Lionsgate Merger: "This Will Make Us a Talent Magnet"

Austin Hargrave
From left: Chris Albrecht, Jon Feltheimer, Michael Burns

Chris Albrecht said his company will be better placed to retain and exploit ownership rights after merging with the Hollywood studio led by Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns.

Expect Starz to be more aggressive pursuing creative talent and exploiting ownership rights after merging with Hollywood's Lionsgate studio.

So said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht on Tuesday as he told investors that joining forces with Lionsgate via a recently concluded $4.4 billion merger will allow his premium cable channel to secure more production scale and creative know-how. "This will make us a talent magnet," the exec said in a presentation during Lionsgate's first Investors Day in Denver.

Relationships that come through Lionsgate's TV division especially will allow Starz to attract more and better creative talent, Albrecht argued. "Part of the strategy of the combined company is to be more aggressive ... to hold on to more rights. That's not just because we can spend more money, but it's because we can turn those rights into more money," he said.

Albrecht reiterated that Lionsgate already has an expanding global distribution force that Starz can tap into. "To put Starz programming into that machine, it's just going to get a better results," he told investors.

The newly combined company will have a 16,000-title film and TV library, making it the largest independent TV business in the world, with 87 original series on 42 U.S. networks. The TV output includes such franchises as Orange Is the New Black, Greenleaf, The Royals and Nashville.

The new entity also will include the operation of or investment in 30 channel platforms around the world, namely the flagship Starz platform that reaches 24 million U.S. subscribers, the Starz Encore network with over 32 million subscribers and five OTT services.

Albrecht echoed Lionsgate execs in arguing that the combination of the companies will enable both media players to better compete in a fast-changing digital age. Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer hinted to financial analysts gathered in Denver that his studio's TV division and Starz are already jointly working on three "fast-track projects" close to reaching the market.

"You can assume in a very short period of time there will be something that is a collaboration and that will be on the air," he said. And with market watchers talking peak production of scripted TV content, Feltheimer didn't sound troubled when asked by one analyst about Netflix and Amazon starting to monopolize the creative community by turning out their own shows, and what impact that may have on Starz-gate.

The streaming giants would continue to come to Lionsgate for TV series, he assured. "From my perspective, the question is, if you go to a third party to produce programming, who do you go to in the first place?" the Lionsgate boss told investors, as he stressed his studio prizes quality TV shows that enjoyed extended seasonal runs over quantity.

"Nobody is going to produce all their own programming. It's not going to happen," Feltheimer added.