Looking for subs, Starz offers freeview, plans a la carte iPad app
Michelle Clancy | 28-11-2011
In an effort to tease consumers into buying a subscription for their premium programming, sister networks Starz and Encore offered 42 million Americans free access to their channels for the long Thanksgiving weekend.
Starz also said it's planning its own streaming app for tablets and smartphone, potentially on an a la carte basis. DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, along with several regional telco and MSO pay-TV players, participated in the promotion.
While families were serving up turkey and stuffing, Starz was serving up a raft of exclusives like Boss (an original series with Kelsey Grammer), Gnomeo & Juliet, Just Go With It, The Green Hornet and Tron: Legacy. Encore meanwhile cooked up a Lord of the Rings marathon complete with extended special editions.
Starz, which has around 19 million paying customers, has been working on extending its distribution and subscriber base lately, in the wake of a lucrative distribution deal collapsing with Netflix, whose subscribers will lose access to Starz's movies and TV in February. Netflix was willing to give Starz $300 million per year for distribution rights, but Starz wanted the online video streaming giant to charge customers a premium to access it. Netflix, reeling from subscriber mutiny over a rate hike, refused the stipulation.
Starz now plans to offer its own tablet/smartphone streaming app, much like HBO GO. Starz President Chris Albrecht said at a late November investor's conference that he is actively considering offering the application a la carte-- i.e., consumers would not need a cable subscription to subscribe to the app.
That's a cut-out-the-middle-man move that's likely to rankle the throngs of pay-TV operators who rely on exclusive distribution of such premium programming as a core piece of their value proposition. Starz has good company in this however--HBO has also expressed interest in going direct to consumer with its streaming app.