Lionsgate CEO Calls Starz Buildup His Highest Priority

Associated Press

Lionsgate has “no higher priority” than to build Starz, CEO Jon Feltheimer told investors at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Toronto — the first since the studio closed the $4.4 billion deal to buy the premium network company in December.

And when it comes to the production businesses, Lionsgates execs “spend a lot of our time thinking about the challenges created by a fragmented box office and a television business in which cord cutters and cord nevers are rewriting all of the rules,” he says.

The company “will continue to turn industry challenges into Lionsgate opportunities by punching above our weight, finding ways to be disruptors rather than disrupted, and keeping the needs of our consumers and the expectations of our shareholders foremost in our minds.”

Feltheimer says that Starz had “a strong growth year” with programs including Power, American Gods, and The White Princess.

In addition, he says, the Starz on-demand app “earned a coveted 5 star rating among Apple store consumers – the app world equivalent of a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score — and it is now the highest rated of all premium network apps.”

Starz’ total sub base “increased 5% last year with diminishing churn despite industry headwinds.”

Feltheimer talked up the companies’ “greater than anticipated cost synergies.” They include uniting employees in a single New York office, and signing a lease to move Starz’ employees on the west coast to a next door office by the end of March.

The companies also combined their worldwide television, digital and packaged media distribution efforts.

The CEO says that Lionsgate is now “moving into the second phase of our Starz strategy” with new programming. He cited The Rook, co-produced with “our friends at Liberty Global” — a major Lionsgate shareholder — that Feltheimer calls “indicative of the quality of the content that the Lionsgate Television Group will provide.”

He also spotlighted series in development or production including Step Up, The Kingkiller Chronicle and “the Continental Hotel television spin-off of John Wick.”

Other initiatives he identified include two new streaming services: the Laugh Out Loud comedy channel with Kevin Hart and Pantaya premium movie service. The company plans a third branded theme park, for South Korea, along with its Lionsgate Zone at Motiongate opening this fall in Dubai, an indoor theme park under construction in China and smaller city centers planned in Europe and the U.S.

Interactive ventures and gaming efforts also are “beginning to bear fruit,” he says.

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