Starz Says Discussions Ongoing With Comcast Regarding Streaming App29 Apr, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Starz recently launched a branded app that enables pay-TV and non-authenticated subscribers (the latter for $8.99 monthly) access to original programming. Comcast, a major Starz affiliate and longtime proponent of TV Everywhere, has a problem with a-la-carte access to pay-TV content. As a result, the cabler is not allowing its subscribers access to the Starz app.
Comcast says subscribers can access Starz original programming on demand through existing Xfinity platforms.
Characterizing the dispute “a discussion, not a negotiation,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht, speaking on the company's April 28 fiscal call, said the issue is not about money but rather policy. He said while the No. 1 cabler has “literally” millions of Starz and Starz Encore subscribers, it has a lot invested in its Xfinity platform and TV Everywhere.
“We believe the consumer is better served by having a choice of authenticating to either [platform] or both,” Albrecht said. “We expect the consumer will have a voice in this.”
The executive said he believes there’s no reason why pay-TV and standalone OTT can’t co-exist — with the former highlighting the value of the Comcast subscription, and OTT providing a value to broadband-only consumers. Indeed, Comcast is one of the nation’s largest ISPs.
“We’re optimistic,” Albrecht said.
Meanwhile, Starz Distribution — which includes Anchor Bay Home Entertainment — reported a 15% first-quarter (ended march 31) revenue decrease to $92.7 million, from $109.7 million during the previous-year period. Operating income decreased $15.7 million to $9.7 million, from $25.4 million, which the distributor attributed to year-over-year comparisons with licensing select original series to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
In addition, cash paid for investment in films and television programs decreased $24.5 million to $15.1 million due to timing of payments under Starz's distribution agreement with The Weinstein Company.