Starz CEO optimistic about spinoff

Albrecht confirms 'Outlander' development in Q3 call

Starz CEO Chris Albrecht is optimistic about the pay cabler’s prospects as a stand-alone entity once its spinoff from Liberty Media is completed.

“We believe that as an independent company we will (be able) to capitalize on opportunities and potential alliances in the marketplace,” Albrecht told investors Tuesday during Liberty’s third-quarter earnings conference call. The spinoff of the Starz-Encore cable cluster is expected to be completed by year’s end.

Albrecht also announced a development pact with Sony Pictures TV for a fantasy series, “Outlander,” to be developed by “Battlestar Galactica” showrunner Ron Moore based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon.

Starz’s revenue increased 3% to $400 million. It was up in distribution and flat for both the Starz channels and animation businesses. Albrecht said higher subscriptions for Starz (up 9%) and Encore (up 5%) were partly offset by the termination of its deal with Netflix.

Albrecht acknowledged the challenge of being a independent programmer in an industry of behemoths, noting that two major multiyear, multiplatform affiliation renewals — one recently concluded and one nearly done — are on less favorable economic terms than the previous pacts. He didn’t name numbers or distributors but said fees would dip in the first year but then increase in subsequent years.

Albrecht continues to bank on originals for buzz and bucks, like the fourth and last installment of “Spartacus” in January; “Da Vinci’s Demons,” premiering in the spring; and “Black Sails,” a new skein exec produced by Michael Bay.

Wall Streeters are also keenly interested in Liberty’s other newsy investment, SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Liberty is in the process of taking the satellite radio group over, and CEO Mel Karmazin just announced his resignation.

Liberty CEO Gregg Maffei said Sirius has a “deep bench.” He’s heading a three-member board committee to name a search firm and find a replacement for Karmazin, which he hopes will take six months or less, considering both internal and external candidates.

Liberty owns about 49% of Sirius now and plans to increase its stake to more than 50%.