It’s time to add Starz to the list of pay TV services now available without a cable or satellite — or, in this case, an Amazon Prime — subscription.
The company just unveiled an $8.99 a month streaming service, also to be called Starz, available online and via an app for Apple and Android devices beginning today. Households can access as many as four streams simultaneously, and download shows.
Starz’ existing customers on traditional TV services, including those who buy Starz Encore and Movieplex, also can use the app to access programming.
Starz’ customers will be able to watch the premiere episode of the new season of Outlander on April 7, two days before subscribers of the current TV service will see it, on the app and online as well as some on-demand platforms.
“Our programing will now be more widely available to the 20 million broadband only homes of cord nevers, cord cutters and cord shavers, including Millennials and other underserved consumers who need other viable subscription service options,” CEO Chris Albrecht says.
The launch coincides with the company’s rebranding of its Encore suite of channels, now called Starz Encore.
Albrecht had told investors to expect the digital launch, which follows the introduction of standalone services by HBO and Showtime — as well as Starz’ own independent $8.99 a month streaming offering via Amazon, announced in December.
The new app “is state-of-the-art and will have all of the functions and features that consumers are looking for, that they are expecting and that they will be excited about,” he told analysts in February. “And we are really jazzed about it here. So it opens up a whole new world for us, because unlike our relationship with Amazon, where it’s their environment that we are putting the Starz product into, this is an environment that’s been created by Starz for Starz subscribers and that experience is one that we curate and we control. And that is a very big difference.”
He assured them that it would not hurt its relationship with current distributors, who fear that the growing array of digital alternatives might promote cord shaving or cutting.
Premium networks “are a good, profitable business for them and more innovation on their part has the potential to make it even more profitable,” Albrecht said. He added that he’d like to see more variety “in how the operators price, package and market premium networks to both current and prospective subscribers.”
When it comes to Starz, Wall Street is mostly interested in seeing whether Liberty Media’s John Malone — its controlling shareholder — can engineer a sale or merger. Lionsgate was seen as a likely potential buyer: It owns 14.7% of the voting shares in Starz following a deal with Malone that gave him a stake in the independent studio as well as a seat on its board. Lionsgate said in early February that it was in talks with Starz.
But Starz’ shares fell shortly afterward as Lionsgate generated weaker-than-expected box office results for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and The Divergent Series: Allegiant. Starz shares are down about 23.2% since the beginning of this year, and 26.8% for the last 12 months.