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Starz chief Albrecht predicts consolidation

Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht has told TBI he expects consolidation in the content space to continue in the next couple of years.

Albrecht_Chris_MAINHe has also revealed that all episodes of several upcoming series will all roll out, in full, on the Starz Play on-demand service, allowing subs to binge-watch shows ahead of their linear broadcast.

Starz is itself the subject of a merger and acquisitions speculation with Lionsgate and more recently AMC linked with moves for the premium cabler, and while Albrecht would not comment on specific talks, he told TBI there will be M&A in the programming business.

“There are always benefits that can come from synergy and scale and I think if you take two good companies that are executing well on their strategies and you combine them, the chances are you’re going to end up with a better company,” he said.

Albrecht added that the Starz team still go into work thinking they will continue working as a standalone entity, and added that putting content companies of the scale of Starz and the firms it has been linked to is a challenge.

“Even though we are not a US$20 billion dollar company, we are a US$5 billion company, [AMC] is a US$5 or US$6 billion company and Lionsgate is a US$5 or US$6 billion company, [and] it is not so easy to put these companies together. But I think that we’ll probably see some consolidation on the content side over the next couple of years because its just going to start making sense; its going to start to propel growth and I think you can create value that way.”

On the programming side, Starz is preparing a binge-friendly release model for the upcoming third season of Da Vinci’s Demons and dance drama series Flesh and Bone. After the first episode plays on the Starz linear channel, all subsequent episodes will be put on the Starz Play on-demand platform, allowing for Netflix-style binge-viewing.

Albrecht told TBI it will “probably” also use the binge-release model for The Girlfriend Experience), the upcoming Steven Soderbergh half-hour drama series that stars Riley Keough as a high class escort.

“That model becomes a feature that is unique to us and Netflix,” Albrecht said. “We’re not selling ad time so we’re happy to have people watch it whenever they want to watch it, however they want to watch it. I don’t think there is any downside for us and it says [to our customers that] if you want to watch television that way, we’ll let you watch television that way.”

Starz is also evaluating direct to consumer moves. HBO and Showtime have both launched consumer plays, although the results are not yet clear in terms of take-up.

“There are some new distribution models we need to look at: going more directly to the consumer, reaching the consumer through different portals,” Albrecht said.

“We are going to start to think about that, and hopefully our distribution partners are going to want to innovate and get us to the consumer at a lower price point. There are opportunities starting to surface: HBO has done it with Apple and Showtime is doing it with Hulu.”

The full interview with Starz CEO Chris Albrecht can be read here