Starz CEO on Female Audience Push: "It's The Right Thing to Do"

Jeff Hirsch
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"Women are really driving our business. Women and African American women," Starz' Jeff Hirsch told an investors conference.

Starz topper Jeff Hirsch says targeting women for his fast-growing premium cable and streaming audience just makes business sense.

"We saw as we got more of our data capability that women are really driving our business. Women and African-American women, and we know it's working. We see it in the explosive growth of our OTT service," Starz president and CEO Hirsch told the virtual Communacopia Conference during a session that was webcast.

The premium pay TV service has women as 11 of the 16 showrunners behind Starz' content pipeline, and five of those creative bosses are women of color. Top Starz originals include Outlander in its fifth season, the new series Hightown, from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and P-Valley, from playwright Katori Hall.

Starz also has the next two series in the Power franchise from executive producers Courtney A. Kemp and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson: Power Book II: Ghost and Power Book III: Raising Kanan.
There's also the family drama Heels; Dangerous Liaisons; the comedy series Run The World; and Stephen Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience.

Hirsch said, as rival streaming platforms look to stand out in a crowded marketplace with broad offerings, many of which are ad-supported, Starz is focusing in on a female demo with original and provocative series.

"We feel like it's the DNA of the company and what we put on our screen and behind the screen and how we manage the network is what we're focused on and it's working," Hirsch told investors.

Lionsgate vice-chair Michael Burns, also appearing virtually at the investors conference, talked about the premium VOD window model for movie releases, which has come into its own during the on-going coronavirus pandemic.

"I think the theatrical business is changed forever. And it probably took a pandemic to move that along," Burns said as he weighed in on AMC Theaters' historic agreement with Universal Pictures that will allow the studio's movies to be made available on premium video-on-demand after just 17 days of play in cinemas, including three weekends.

"That's interesting, but if you take a look at what's happening, for example, with our movie Antebellum that we made for the right price. We're releasing that theatrically in some international territories and at the same time we'll release it PVOD in the United States," he recounted.

He cited Lionsgate's Motion Picture Group, led by Joe Drake, for tailoring movies for an industry where release windows are being dramatically sliced and diced. "Do I see the next John Wick or Hunger Games movie being theatrically released? Yes, I do. However, will the windows change? Yes, they probably will and there will be a lot of variations on a theme for sure," Burns added.