UPDATE, 11:56 AM: Liberty Media chairman John Malone finally took on the big question for Starz as his company prepares to spin it off: In a Q&A session at the end of Liberty’s Investor Day presentations, he indicated that once the premium cable network company is independent it likely will decide to sell itself to another company. “Everybody can use a big brother,” Malone says. “There are substantial synergies for Starz working together with various potential media partners. Certainly one of the opportunities is for [CEO Chris Albrecht] and the board to explore other relationships….Liberty can’t provide Starz with much in the way of operational synergies in the U.S.”
PREVIOUS, 10:52 AM: Starz’s new slogan is “Starz: Taking You Places,” CEO Chris Albrecht told Liberty Media investors today at the company’s annual gathering to review its holdings. Liberty CEO Greg Maffei says execs expect a spinoff to take place by year end. They’re waiting for the IRS to determine that there’ll be no big tax hit when Liberty turns Starz into a separate, publicly traded company. But Liberty has already decided who will sit on the board: In addition to Albrecht it will include Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, DirecTV EVP Derek Chang, Gilt Groupe chairman Susan Lyne, and former TV and movie studio honcho Jeff Sagansky. Starz will have about $500M in liquidity. Aside from that, not much new in the execs’ presentations — and they didn’t address whether Starz will remain independent or serve as take-over bait. Albrecht says the company plans to boost its original productions — which now include DaVinci’s Demons, Spartacus, Magic City, and Boss — but without incurring huge costs. “In a cluttered environment, it’s a really good strategy,” he says. The company also is eager to roll out its TV Everywhere streaming services which will include Starz Play, Encore Play, and MoviePlen Play. Although HBO was first out of the gate with HBO Go, “we’re one of the first,” he says. This week Starz said that it will introduce the on-demand streaming services to subscribers on Cox cable systems.