Starz CEO Chris Albrecht gave a brief state of the network at the opening of Starz‘s portion of TCA’s press tour. He addressed the company’s pending spinoff from Liberty Media. “This month Starz will become an independent company separate from Liberty Media with yours truly as CEO of a private company,” he said. “It is daunting and exciting. For this room what it means is we will now be in charge of our own balance sheet, and be able to accelerate our rampup into original programming.” The importance of original programming is even greater for Starz now as it faces the 2016 departure of its top supplier of theatrical movies, Disney, which recently inked a deal with Netflix. “The first thing I would say is, there was every opportunity for us to make the deal or not make it,” Albrecht said after the session about the negotiations with Disney. “And the reason we chose to not make it is, Disney movies are not the future of Starz, and to dramatically increase the amount of money we’re paying for movies right now didn’t really seem to be the prudent way to commit Starz’ financial resources. Originals are an essential part of our future.”
This year, Starz is launching three new original drama series, Davis S. Goyer’s Da Vinci’s Demons, which was presented to critics today ahead of its April 12 premiere; limited series The White Queen, a 10-episode limited series based on the best-selling historical novels by Philippa Gregory; and the Michael Bay-produced Black Sails. Albrecht announced that production has begun in Cape Town, South Africa on Black Sails, which takes place 20 years prior to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island, with Neil Marshall (The Descent) directing the first episode. The straight-to-series, eight-episode first season of the gritty pirate adventure centers about the tales of Captain Flint and his men will air in 2014. There is still no movement on two dramas that had been given series straight-to-series orders before most of those rolling out this year, Marco Polo, which has faced issues in its attempt to film in China, and Noir, an adaptation of the anime series. “We just can’t get that creatively to a place where everybody feels good about it,” Albrecht said about Noir after the session. “I would never say that there is no chance, but it’s a little more frustrating as time goes on.”
Albrecht also addressed some of the projects Starz has in development as part of its shift to more originals. He mentioned Crime from William Monahan Turf, about the birth of hip-hop; and Power, exec produced by 50 Cent. Albrecht said that Incursion, the sci-fi drama from Spartacus creator Steven S. DeKnight, continues to be in active development and “creature development.” He also made a prediction for 2013 that “there will be the rapid acceleration of our Starz and Encore play authenticated platforms in terms of their distribution.”
Diane Haithman contributed to this report.