Starz stocks up on content

Network renews output deals with studio trio

Starz has solidified its supply of fresh theatrical product well into the next decade by engineering three-year output renewals with its two most important suppliers, Columbia Pictures and Disney. Starz could end up funneling combined license fees of about $877 million to Col and the Mouse House over the term of the renewals.

In a related announcement, Starz said it had signed library deals with Warner Bros., Universal and MGM that will stream about 1,200 movies to the network over a number of years.

“Movies have always been the No. 1 backbone of our company,” said Stephan Shelanski, exec VP of programming for Starz. “Extending our relationships with five major studios shows our continued commitment.”

Starz has never before made a movie announcement this big since the pay net owned by John Malone’s Liberty Media opened for business in March 1994.

The extension with Disney encompasses theatricals released by Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone and Miramax through the end of 2012. The Col extension, negotiated through Sony Pictures TV, covers movies from Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Classics and other theatrical divisions of Sony through the end of 2013.

Shelanski noted that the Sony output includes such future titles as “Hancock,” starring Will Smith; “The Da Vinci Code” spinoff “Angels & Demons,” with Tom Hanks; and the Adam Sandler vehicle “Don’t Mess With the Zohan.”

The deals with the studios permit Starz to play the movies not only on all of the 16 Starz and Encore multiplex channels but on the high-definition duplicate channels; the on-demand platforms; on Vongo, the subscription service that allows Starz customers to call up movies through streaming video on their computers; and on Starz Play, which permits the downloading of movies from computers to handheld devices.

On the library deals, Shelanski said that locking up the Warners, Universal and MGM titles “is a big step in the bulking up of our future library inventory.”

The Warner Bros. titles include “The Road Warrior,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Interview With a Vampire,” “Risky Business,” “Heat,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Batman,” “Superman” and “Blade Runner.”

Among the U pictures are “Mulholland Dr.,” “Conan the Barbarian,” “Death Becomes Her,” “The Crow,” “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” and the third and fourth editions of “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

From MGM, Starz gets 17 James Bond movies, “Top Gun,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “Raging Bull,” three “Robocop” movies and eight “Pink Panther” movies.

Starz will have short exclusive windows to these titles, some of which won’t become available for a few years because of previous deals; library product is the bellwether of many of the multiplex channels that are part of Starz and its Encore sibling.

Shelanski said these library deals include some TV-series episodes. For example, Warners is providing windows to such black-and-white series as “Maverick,” “The Lawman,” and “Cheyenne” for use by the Encore Westerns channel.

To supplement its Disney and Columbia outputs, Starz has pay TV-exclusive deals with its sister movie company Overture Films, which released its first-ever theatrical, “Mad Money,” last week. Starz has also bought exclusive rights to some movies from the Weinstein Co., the Yari Film Group and IFC.