Starz COO Touts Lionsgate TV Originals to Drive Streaming Expansion

Jeff Hirsch

As Chris Albrecht exits, Jeff Hirsch signaled the Hollywood studio will help, rather than compete with, the premium cable channel as it grows in an increasingly crowded streaming arena.

After recent news that Chris Albrecht will leave Starz over an apparent reluctance to cede precious few hours of original programming to Lionsgate TV originals, Jeff Hirsch, COO of the premium cable channel, on Monday fully embraced that content acquisition strategy as the studio and Starz continue to integrate.

"You put their strength in a motion picture business with the Lionsgate TV business and the Starz platform, that gives us a lot of opportunity for Starz to grow its domestic OTT (Over the Top) business by super-charging the content coming out of the Lionsgate TV business," Hirsch told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco during a session that was webcast.

With Hirsch taking over the reins from Albrecht, he touted Lionsgate TV series like Stephanie Meyer's The Rook and The Continental, the TV adaptation of the John Wick film franchise, as the first of many TV shows from the Hollywood studio to land on Starz, starting this summer.

"There's eight or nine other projects that we're working on with Lionsgate Television," he added, including Power spinoffs from a new Lionsgate deal with Courtney A. Kemp, creator and showrunner of the popular Starz drama.

"We're working on a prequel, a sequel, a spinoff. If Power ends up looking like Dick Wolf's Law and Order ... we'll continue to push through there because we need to continue to serve that audience," Hirsch said. While at Starz, Albrecht has had a hands-on approach to developing and greenlighting new shows, and his exit is expected to see Hirsch and Carmi Zlotnik, president of programming, work more closely with Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer to grow the Starz business domestically and internationally.

Here Hirsch underlined how Lionsgate's TV division is helping, rather than competing with, Starz's own TV development efforts in an increasingly crowded streaming landscape. "The more that we can pull from that [Lionsgate] side in a competitive environment, the better it is for us," he insisted.

At Starz, Hirsch has rebranded and repositioned the flagship Starz and Starz Encore networks, launched the Starz app and got the company into the streaming business with Amazon by bundling the premium cable channel as part of Amazon Prime. Starz has also signed more recent wholesale carriage deals with Hulu and YouTube TV.

The exec stressed Lionsgate's original series and TV library will also allow Starz to expand internationally faster than bigger and more cumbersome competitors like HBO and Showtime. Said Hirsch, "Lionsgate has a 17,000-strong library and when you couple that with Starz originals, that allows us to expand and grow very rapidly."