More subs, higher rates pump cable channels

John Malone’s Liberty Starz Group said its move to exit the theatrical motion pictures biz boosted profit last quarter but meant revenue slipped slightly last quarter — offset by improved results at Starz Channels.

Starz group revenue eased 2% to $389 million for the third quarter as the company cited fewer theatrical films released on homevideo, a dip in revenue from animation and no theatrical films released in 2011 after basically shuttering Overture Films. But the Starz Channels, led by Chris Albrecht, took in an additional $7 million from higher rates and $5 million from increased subscriptions.

Liberty Starz operating income jumped 31% to $101 million. Starz subs grew 9%; Encore’s were up 3%. The group saved on theatrical marketing and advertising year-on-year. It decided to focus on TV.

“Starz Entertainment performed well in the third quarter with continued solid financial and operational performance, and momentum in implementing our original programming strategy,” said CEO Albrecht, noting the slate of 2012 Starz originals that include “Spartacus: Vengeance” and “Magic City” as well as a second season of “Boss.” A production deal with BBC Worldwide yielded its first original programming commitment, with “Da Vinci’s Demons” now in development for 2013. Albrecht said he is “heartened to see strong demand for our owned originals in the homevideo, international and digital businesses.”

Liberty Media Group has been trying to split up its businesses into separate companies to make it easier for investors, but its structure remains complex.

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