Starz chief: Drawing talent easier than at HBO

Albrecht talks original programming, Netflix deal at TCA

Chris Albrecht expects ramping up original programming on Starz will be easier than during his days working at HBO.

At the Television Critics Assn. press tour, the newly hired Starz president and CEO said the turning point at HBO wasn't launching "The Sopranos" or "Sex and the City" but once Albrecht stopped having to phone top Hollywood talent asking for their projects and top talent started calling him instead.

"Since that time, a lot of creative talent have recognized the extent of opportunities in pay television," Albrecht said. "I won't have that curve to get over. I'm hoping that joining the company will augment the number [of talent taking projects to Starz]. I hope people who have good ideas will try to get us to hear them."

Albrecht also said comedy series "Party Down," whose guest stars this season include Kristen Bell, Steve Guttenberg and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, may get an early renewal to prevent losing actors during pilot season.

"How do you know they'll be successful?" he asked rhetorically about early renewals in general. "You say they're successful and just keep ordering them."

Asked about the benefits of Starz's deal with Netflix, which distributes the network's original programming for free, Albrecht said it's a deal the network is "looking to refine."

"It's a complicated deal," he said. "It's always nice to get a check."

Albrecht seemed to enjoy being back on the TCA stage, and the feeling was mutual among the critics. Albrecht has retained his trademark sharp humor, though it was combined with a more relaxed and positive attitude than during his HBO reign, where his Q&A sessions with critics were sometimes tense affairs.

"I have to run to a previous commitment," Albrecht said. "I didn't get all dressed up just for you.