When he was at HBO, Chris Albrecht was recognized for encouraging writers to comply with their visions and create worlds inhabited by multifaceted characters that have been neither totally good nor evil, however unquestionably human of their frailties and strengths. Albrecht greenlit such groundbreaking exhibits as The Sopranos, Intercourse and the Metropolis, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Band of Brothers, altering the path of scripted tv ceaselessly.
Albrecht joined Starz in 2010 when the premium pay-TV panorama had two deep-pocketed gamers, HBO and Showtime. He was open to partnering with worldwide content material producers and continued to help creators and showrunners with distinctive and sometimes unheard voices. Within the course of, Starz started catering to segments of the viewers that had beforehand been underserved, similar to African People and Latinx, first with unique collection like Energy after which Vida. Outlander, Ash vs Evil Lifeless and The Girlfriend Expertise have additionally garnered loyal viewership.
Albrecht was one of many early pioneers of the straight-to-series mannequin, preferring it to the costlier pilot course of, and continues to make use of it in the present day. As the normal TV panorama is in a part of transition, coping with disruption brought on by streaming providers and their countless, bingeable, all-you-can-watch menus of movies and collection, Albrecht has overseen the launch of Starz’s app and is benefiting from the info drawn from subscribers’ habits and preferences to raised serve them.
Starz has additionally benefited from its merger with Lionsgate. The indie studio acquired Starz on the finish of 2016, and Lionsgate’s library, monetary assets and relationships are serving to Starz launch internationally and appeal to extra expertise.
Albrecht, Starz’s president and CEO, talks to World Display concerning the relationship with Lionsgate, working with showrunners, taking possibilities on new expertise, rising the app and worldwide enlargement.
WS: We’ve been studying so much about upcoming streaming providers which are taking a look at providing increasingly selection and quantity. Is that the one method to achieve this crowded surroundings?
ALBRECHT: I don’t assume so. What’s for positive is that on this click-in and click-out world of digital direct-to-consumer platforms, the concept all it takes is one present, and one present makes a distinction, just isn’t true anymore. What you want is a technique of who your goal buyer base is. You want an built-in portfolio of packages that helps that technique and is an extension of that technique. You then want nice advertising and an amazing shopper expertise. When you’ve got that mixture, then the quantity of packages, whereas it’s all the time good to have extra, isn’t the one factor that makes it higher.
WS: Starz has been catering to underserved audiences. Is that a technique that advanced over time or was it a acutely aware objective of yours?
ALBRECHT: Each; it advanced and has develop into a acutely aware objective as a result of we now have the potential of going extra on to clients, whether or not it’s by means of Amazon within the U.S., U.Okay. or Germany, or different territories that we’re going to announce with further companions. The chance to be in a configuration and a worth level that provide clients who beforehand won’t have been capable of get Starz right here within the U.S., as a result of that they had to purchase an enormous cable package deal, and positively outdoors the U.S., the place Starz wasn’t obtainable, [leads to the questions,] Who’re the possible clients who’re going to get this service? What ought to I be programming for them and what ought to I be charging? So, the underserved viewers is one we expect is an out there and hungry pool of probably clients. In the event that they have been super-served, then they wouldn’t be doubtless clients, as a result of they might already be glad.
WS: You’ve had the Starz app for about two years. What have you ever discovered about your viewers that may assist inform what you supply them?
ALBRECHT: The primary headline is that we’re truly capable of study from them as a result of they’re our clients versus a cable firm’s clients or a satellite tv for pc firm’s clients, and even within the case of Amazon, Amazon’s clients. Our direct-to-consumer app is permitting us to have a one-to-one relationship with the client. And the info that we seize and the communication that we have now with them are speedy—we’ve got communication with them, we get knowledge. The communication with them is usually merely, right here is that this program, what are they going to observe? And we’re like youngsters in a sweet retailer. It’s such a terrific alternative to have the ability to take into consideration our enterprise and make selections based mostly on precise info and suggestions, versus subjective selections or info we’re getting by means of third events. It’s informing virtually every thing that we do now. One of many issues that we’ve discovered is that the people who find themselves utilizing the app are likely to skew extra feminine and youthful, and that isn’t a shock, nevertheless it’s nice to see. And the concept we will now fall in behind that info and attempt to strengthen each of these provides us an out there viewers with hopefully youthful viewers and long-term subscribers.
WS: As a result of you might have two priorities: it’s a must to appeal to the subscribers, after which it’s a must to hold them, proper?
ALBRECHT: Precisely, that’s the similar as in any subscription enterprise. It’s a mannequin that plenty of different corporations try to create and emulate, however that’s precisely the duty. You must get them, and you must maintain them. And that isn’t the identical state of affairs with each shopper. Subsequently, this info that we’re getting from individuals is permitting us to know the totally different elements of holding them. Getting them is one activity, however the precise greatest funding that we will make is getting higher at maintaining them. And positively, if for some cause they depart, getting actually good at profitable them again.
WS: You have got a status for championing creativity and dealing with creators and showrunners. Taking any exhibits as examples, inform us the way you assist showrunners stay true to their imaginative and prescient and nonetheless craft a present that’s good on your model and your subscribers.
ALBRECHT: I really like working with people who find themselves first-time showrunners as a result of they’ve an concept they’re extremely captivated with. They wish to us to be an actual help. They often have a really recent voice as a result of it hasn’t had an opportunity to be uncorked and run via a number of seasons of one thing that has already popped out of their head. We’ve labored with Courtney Kemp on Energy and Tanya Saracho on Vida. We’re engaged on one other present with a younger African American playwright, Katori Corridor. These are people who find themselves ripe for making implausible tv. Energy has turn into a worldwide model. Vida is in contrast to something that’s on tv. When you’re prepared to help these voices and take possibilities with people who find themselves prepared however don’t have the monitor document but, then I feel most of the time you will get one thing particular. And even when it doesn’t succeed with the viewers, you’ve no less than succeeded in saying, here’s what we stand for as a artistic firm and it does one thing nice for the model and attracts extra individuals with extra distinctive voices.
WS: Once I converse to lots of people within the enterprise, they speak concerning the direct-to-series mannequin. Weren’t you one of many first individuals who put that into motion, and is that a mannequin you continue to use immediately?
ALBRECHT: Sure, we have been one of many first. Once we began doing originals right here, we have been the brand new child on the block. We definitely didn’t have the monetary assets that a number of the extra established gamers had. So, this was our method of claiming, we will give you one thing different individuals aren’t. Now the direct-to-series mannequin is nearly the usual within the enterprise. We don’t do pilots. We’ve performed somewhat bit with some shows, the place we shoot a day or two to take a look at a movie type or a unique actor or actress. However no, we aren’t doing pilots; we’ll both learn a script or fee a script after which go proper to a writers’ room after which decide to go to collection or not.
WS: Starz has additionally branched out into unscripted fare. What motivated that call, and what sort of unscripted exhibits are you on the lookout for?
ALBRECHT: When premium pay tv first began to have critical entries into the unique programming area, they didn’t reinvent the wheel. One-hour dramas have been a staple of tv; premium platforms simply provided a unique canvas. Half-hour comedies have been a staple of tv; premium platforms simply provided a special canvas. Once I take a look at unscripted, there are docuseries and actuality; these are the 2 ends of the spectrum within the unscripted world. Docuseries are an fascinating staple as a result of you are able to do issues extra truthfully—they don’t seem to be information; they’re extra filmmaker-driven. Broadcast networks’ docuseries have a tendency to return from a information division, whereas on a premium platform they have a tendency to return extra from filmmakers, so they’re working from a unique perspective and totally different impetus to do the challenge. The one factor that hasn’t occurred that we’re excited about is the success that ad-supported channels have had with actuality exhibits. What’s the premium model of a actuality present? I don’t know. We’re investigating these issues. For me, it’s simply saying, with 400 or 500 or 600 scripted exhibits on the market, perhaps we ought to be taking a look at staples of tv that we haven’t explored lots earlier than and see if we will discover distinctive, fascinating voices in these genres as properly.
WS: Talking of scripted, is it getting harder to safe the expertise you want? Or, given your popularity and Starz’s, can you get the actors, showrunners and administrators you want?
ALBRECHT: Sure, it is extremely aggressive; it’s typically tougher. In the long run, we all the time get to a spot that we be ok with. It’s just a bit extra work and you need to be slightly extra open-minded. One space that’s best is discovering a director as a result of, whereas an actor can are available for 3 or 4 days, a director is available in for a few weeks of prep, then capturing and modifying. It’s a must to guide administrators early. In case you are in search of stars, there’s lots of competitors there. Simply as I like the brand new showrunner concept, I feel it’s nice for us to find new expertise on display as properly. We attempt to forged a large internet and search for any person who we expect can convey a task to life versus marquee worth alone.
WS: How is Starz benefiting from Lionsgate?
ALBRECHT: In some ways, and to begin with with our worldwide enlargement. As a result of we haven’t licensed our model identify and we don’t have massive linear channels outdoors the U.S., we’re capable of go to market in lots of alternative ways in plenty of totally different territories, and we now have numerous plans. However the Lionsgate library, together with the Starz originals, is permitting us to place collectively a content material providing in a short time. So as an alternative of going out to barter with different third events for content material, I might say one of many huge advantages is accessing the Lionsgate library as we develop internationally. Definitely, with Lionsgate TV and the truth that they’re assembly with artistic individuals on a regular basis, we now have an in-house studio excited about servicing Starz—that’s all the time nice. Any assist that we will get to seek out terrific tasks is welcome on this aggressive surroundings. Being a part of a much bigger firm, having that library and an in-house studio have all been very useful.
WS: Talking of the library, I do know that originals get a whole lot of consideration, however movies are nonetheless essential to Starz, aren’t they?
ALBRECHT: Completely. And, as we take a look at the Starz app, it’s not simply having movies, it’s having lots of them as a result of what you actually need to do is supply individuals the selection to discover the app. In case you are happening a aircraft, [the app allows you to] obtain some originals. In case you are going within the automotive, you’ll be able to obtain a film, let the youngsters sit within the again seat and watch it. We have now a fantastic array of household movies as properly. Sure, theatricals are essential, and again to the Lionsgate relationship, the Lionsgate/Summit movies will in all probability be coming to Starz sooner or later. That may also be good, so we will have conversations about what sorts of movies work for our enterprise on the very starting of the event course of, and that’s not a chance that a whole lot of corporations have. Even the large corporations like Warner Bros. and Viacom don’t have these sorts of conversations about what is going to work on the channels. However as we want to increase Starz, we will take a look at the film division of Lionsgate as a associate to assist make Starz stronger.
WS: What are you able to inform us concerning the plans to roll out Starz internationally?
ALBRECHT: I can solely inform you what you’ve learn. We’re within the U.Okay. and Germany and different territories: Northern Eire, Scotland and Wales, and German-speaking Switzerland. We haven’t introduced a associate but, however we’ve introduced that we’re going to be launching in Italy, Spain and France. We’ve introduced 15 nations within the first three years. I wouldn’t be stunned if that accelerates and we see a higher variety of rollouts in a shorter time period. We’re highly regarded proper now. There are lots of people speaking about partnering with us. There are actually giant corporations eager to increase their companies around the globe and Starz is a possible associate or add-on to what they’re doing, as we’re for Amazon within the U.Okay. and Germany. These alternatives will develop in quantity and develop within the timeframe that folks need to launch.
There’s numerous power. We’re very enthusiastic about our worldwide enlargement. We expect we’re distinctive. We now have a terrific product. We have now the monetary wherewithal, we now have the artistic wherewithal and we have now the library. We now have the enterprise expertise. We’re partner-friendly. We’ve a window of alternative. Whereas different individuals are working to get to market, we’re already out there.