Starz CEO Addresses Possibility of Merger

Chris Albrecht - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

Chris Albrecht - H 2015

"Conversations happen all the time," said Chris Albrecht.

Given an opportunity to shoot down speculation that Starz is in merger discussions with AMC Networks, CEO Chris Albrecht didn't bother. In fact, he said Starz is constantly talking about merging with a myriad of companies.

"Conversations happen all the time," the Starz CEO said at the Goldman Sachs 24th Annual Communacopia Conference in New York on Wednesday. "I know all the CEOs of these companies, they know me. It's our job to talk about how we might better grow our business."

All that being said, he added: "We go to work every day thinking Starz will be a standalone company."

Shares of Starz rose 5 percent on Wednesday, after a report surfaced late Tuesday claiming that AMC was in talks to acquire its rival. At the end of trading Wednesday, Starz had a market capitalization of $4.15 billion and an enterprise value of $5.15 billion.

Albrecht recalled his time at Time Warner during various mergers, including the catastrophic one with AOL, and he said under previous management the disparate companies within Time Warner didn't work well together, so he'll make sure things go smoother if and when Starz merges with another company.

"Jeff Bewkes has actually created a lot of value by actually shedding things that were just side by side instead of actually working together," he said of Time Warner's current CEO. "You have to have good strategy, you have to have good reason, you have to have conviction and you have to have great execution when merging," he said.

Albrecht also spoke of Starz and its Encore channel having a big appetite for acquiring older content, and that classic westerns are especially popular on the latter network.

"Gunsmoke is alive and well on Encore, as is Have Gun — Will Travel," he said. "Encore is important to Starz and we're going to make sure that it stays healthy."

He also lamented, though, a digital deal Starz struck seven years ago that wasn't nearly as lucrative as it should have been and that simultaneously gave a big boost to what has become a major competitor.

"Starz had its ill-conceived deal, that you could argue was very instrumental in making Netflix Netflix," he said.