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Starz CEO: ‘Shortsighted’ of Networks to Sell Hot Shows to Netflix

Starz CEO Chris Albrecht questioned the wisdom of networks selling hot properties to Netflix, noting that such shows have helped build the netcaster into a premium-TV heavyweight.

“I think it’s really shortsighted for all these networks to be selling their shows to Netflix. If they didn’t what would be on Netflix?” Albrecht said. The Starz topper spoke Tuesday as part of the UBS Global Media and Communications conference.

Albrecht noted that Netflix built a lot of its initial streaming business on the back of a licensing deal with Starz that Albrecht described as “terrible” for the premium cabler. The former HBO CEO disentangled the company from that deal after taking the reins of Starz in early 2010.

At the same time, Albrecht said he understands the motivation of networks and studio suppliers to take the big checks from Netflix for content rights: “It’s hard to turn down the immediate high of what they’re paying,” he said.

As for Starz itself, Albrecht sought to tamp down rumors about the company being in the hunt for a buyer.

“I wake up one day reading everyone wants to buy Starz, and the next day I wake to find out nobody wants to buy Starz,” he joked, referring to spate of speculative stories about companies including CBS, 21st Century Fox and AMC Networks kicking the tires.

“I have said from the beginning that selling your company is not a strategy,” he added. “We did not put the company up for auction.”

Albrecht emphasized the company’s increasing focus on original programming and its goal of building up to a schedule of offering a handful of original series on a year-round basis. He raised the specter of possibly paring down the number of themed channels that Starz and Encore offer on top of the mothership brands. If MVPD distributors want more bandwidth, “I don’t know that Starz and Encore need to have 14 channels between them,” he said.

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