Starz clusters aud

Cabler rebrands with ratings success

NEW YORK — John Malone’s Starz Entertainment Group was bracing itself for a period of audience confusion and Nielsen declines when it kicked off the rebranding of its 13 pay TV networks beginning March 28, including the mothership channels Starz! and Encore.

But now that the ratings for April are in, the average household rating of the 13 channels together actually grew by 18%, from a 2.2 rating in April 2004 to a 2.6.

Suzanne Sell, head of research for Starz Encore, said maybe the positive numbers are not so surprising, because each year for the last five the 13 networks have increased their viewership.

Other than fresh on-air looks and logos, the makeovers for the Encore channels consisted mainly of adding the word Encore to the name of the network: Action became Encore Action and Wam (aimed at teenagers and young adults) morphed into Encore Wam.

The changes in the five Starz! multiplex channels were a little trickier because the word Starz was already embedded in the networks’ identity. So Starz Theater became Starz Edge, and Starz Family became Starz Kids & Family.

But viewers took it all in stride: Not one of the 11 multiplexes declined in ratings year-to-year, and four of them shot up in the household Nielsens: Starz in Black, Starz Comedy, Encore Westerns and Encore Wam.

The highest-rated of these 11 networks by far is Encore Westerns, which has become a destination for fans of the genre whose appetite is not being satisfied by other program services.

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