×

Sony sees Starz!, signs output deal

Pact pulls pix from HBO

NEW YORK — Sony Pictures Entertainment has signed an exclusive pay TV contract with John Malone’s Starz! for as many as 200 theatrical movies in a six-year deal that won’t actually kick off until January 2006.

What’s surprising in the deal is that the Sony movies, which cover the production slates of Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics, will be leaving HBO, which had maintained a long-term exclusive relationship with Sony for the pay TV rights. HBO will continue to run the Sony movies through 2005.

Under the contract, Starz! could end up paying Sony $2 billion as there’s an option for an additional three years at Sony’s discretion, which would stretch the deal through movies released in 2014.

The Sony deal with Starz! comes on top of two long-term renewals completed in the last few months: HBO extended its exclusive contract with 20th Century Fox well into the next decade, and Starz! agreed to renew its existing 10-year agreement with Walt Disney for the rights to Touchstone, Hollywood and Miramax pics.

HBO treads Fine Line

Universal, whose deal with Starz! expires at the end of 2003, has also begun discussions with Starz!, HBO and Showtime for a long-term renewal. And although HBO will lose the Sony output at the end of 2005, insiders said no one should be surprised if it helps fill the gap with a deal for New Line/Fine Line output. New Line is in the middle of an agreement with Starz!, which comes to an end — maybe not coincidentally — in December 2005. Although Starz! will be in the bidding, HBO is confident that it will be able to cut a deal with New Line because the two are sister companies, both owned by Time Warner.

Sony engaged in marathon negotiations with HBO to renew the movie output pact before engineering the Starz! deal. Showtime also discussed an output deal with Sony before backing off.

What clinched the deal for Starz! was the willingness of John Sie, founder, chairman and CEO of the Starz Encore Media Group, to let Columbia explore all of the gestating technologies for electronic delivery of movies to the home on pay-per-view.

Both HBO and Showtime became fearful that if PPV starts growing dramatically by the middle of the decade, viewers may cancel their pay TV subscriptions and satisfy their movie appetite by purchasing theatricals one by one through digital TV or the Internet.

Unlimited appeal

But Sie said he’s placing his bets on “the fact that the consumer is smart and will realize that a monthly subscription fee of $10 for an unlimited amount of movie viewing” — the Starz! model — “is better than paying $3.95” for one showing of a pay-per-view movie.

Sie acknowledged that on PPV a particular movie may be available up to six months prior to its first Starz! showing. To counter that advantage, Sie said that digital technology will allow Starz! to offer its monthly subscribers about two-thirds of its movies — at the convenience of the viewer — at no additional cost or for a slight additional fee.

This subscriber would have to be hooked up to a two-way digital-cable box. But Sie is convinced that, in order to stay competitive with satellite distributors and phone companies, cable operators will be installing these boxes at an accelerated clip.

More TV

  • Judith Light shot by Peter Yang

    Judith Light to Receive Variety Icon Award at Canneseries

    Judith Light will receive the third-ever Variety Icon Award at Canneseries. “Everyone at Variety is thrilled to partner again with Canneseries to honor a performer who represents the best of the acting profession,” said Daniel Holloway, executive editor, TV, at Variety. “Judith Light is one of our greatest actors, one whose work has long been nothing [...]

  • Netflix Corporate Headquarters in Los Gatos

    Netflix Looks to Dispel Myths in Berlin as it Ramps Up European Production

    Netflix is looking to create more transparency and dispel some of the myths around working with the streaming giant as it ramps up its European operations, though the company’s fast-paced shooting schedules are “not for everyone,” director of international originals Rachel Eggebeen said Tuesday morning at the Berlinale Series Market. “It’s a fast pace that [...]

  • Piv Bernth

    Sweden's SVT Orders Crime Drama ‘Blackwater’ From ‘The Killing’ Producer Piv Bernth

    Swedish broadcaster SVT has ordered a six-part TV adaptation of Kerstin Ekman’s crime novel “Blackwater” from Piv Bernth’s Apple Tree Productions. The series will be coproduced with ARD Degeto in Germany, and Filmpool Nord, and distributed internationally by ITV Studios. It has pre-sold to DR in Denmark, NRK in Norway, YLE in Finland, and RUV [...]

  • FREUD

    Marvin Kren on His Upcoming Netflix Original Thriller Series ‘Freud’

    “Freud,” Netflix’s upcoming mystery thriller from director by Marvin Kren, places a young Sigmund, before his establishment as a worldwide medical icon, in the middle of a brutal 19th century murder case in Vienna. A Vienna native himself, Kren won numerous awards for his work in TV (“Four Blocks”) and film (“Rammbock,” “Blood Glacier”). In addition [...]

  • Heide Schwochow, Constantin Lieb and Christian

    ‘Transitniki’ Wins Trip to Lille’s Series Mania at Berlin CoPro Series 2020

    Reciprocating an exchange which saw Series Mania 2019 Co-Pro Pitching winner “Capturing Big Mouth” participate at this year’s Berlin CoPro Series, German project “Transitniki” will make the return trip to Lille next month, having been selected by Series Mania representatives in Berlin. From Germany’s Rohfilm Factory, “Transitniki” is set in 1985, behind the Iron Curtain, [...]

  • LARS BLOMGREN

    Endemol Shine’s Lars Blomgren Talks Growth in Scripted, the New Drama Series Landscape

    BERLIN — In the run-up to the Berlinale Series Market, the Endemol Shine Group announced the launch of a new and powerful scripted label in Berlin, MadeFor Film, headed by joint CEOs, Nanni Erben and Gunnar Juncken. Here, “The Bridge” executive producer Lars Blomgren, who was appointed Endemol Shine head of scripted, EMEA in June [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content