The launch also marks the first on the international stage for Starz since the premium network was acquired by Lionsgate in December 2016, an important step in an increasingly global landscape. Under the arrangement, Bell will distribute the first pay window of Lionsgate’s future theatrical releases in Canada and pay TV network The Movie Network Encore (TMN Encore) will be rebranded in early 2019.
Starz content will also be introduced across Bell Media media platforms, including TMN Encore and Canada’s premium streaming service CraveTV.
After its rebrand, TMN Encore will feature Starz programming and Lionsgate films and TV series. Taking a cue from the successful OTT foray in the U.S. by Starz, the newly branded service will also be available on a direct-to-consumer basis.
The library on Starz, which has been in a virtual dead heat with Showtime in recent years as the No. 2 premium network behind HBO, features more than 7,000 feature film and TV titles. The network has also expanded its slate of originals, which includes Power and Girlfriend Experience and upcoming series such as Vida and Sweetbitter.
“We’re delighted to bring Starz to Canada as part of our international channel rollout,” said Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht. “Bell Media is one of North America’s elite content companies, and they bring great brand recognition, a massive consumer base, and unparalleled distribution skills to our alliance. This agreement creates the perfect foundation for the growth of Starz in the territory.”
The deal also encompasses future exclusive first-window access to the studio’s slate of Hollywood movies. All Lionsgate films will also be available to subscribers of Bell Media’s French-language pay-TV service, Super Écran.
Starz is “making waves with bold, fresh content that’s resonating with audiences around the world,” said Bell president Randy Lennox. “We’re delighted to introduce this premium brand to Canadians as well as partner with Lionsgate on the distribution of their film properties going forward.”
Canada “offers tremendous opportunities for growth,” said Jim Packer, president of worldwide television and digital distribution for Lionsgate, “and this multifaceted agreement enables us to deliver the robust slate of Starz premium programming as well as the future first pay television window for Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment films to Bell Media platforms.”
Tracey Pearce, president of distribution and pay for Bell Media, said Starz series and Lionsgate films “add hundreds of hours of premium content every year to our already-rich offering.”
The deal was negotiated for Lionsgate by Susan Hummel, EVP and managing director of worldwide TV sales in Canada, under the direction of Packer and Miles Delaney, SVP of corporate development and strategy; for Starz, by Brad Worthington, VP of corporate strategy and development, and international executive Superna Kalle. It was negotiated for Bell by Jeff Hersh, VP of strategy and distribution, and Justin Stockman, VP of pay and OTT services, under the direction of Lennox and Pearce.