×

Starz’s Chris Albrecht on the Challenges of Buzz, Diversity and Budgets

For the first time in more than four years at Starz, Chris Albrecht looked and sounded comfortable as he showed off a new slate of programming for the premium cabler.

Albrecht went off the script at the start of Starz’s Friday session at the Television Critics Assn. summer tour, fielding about 20 minutes’ worth of questions that ranged from his thoughts on the pending MVPD mega-mergers to the struggle for Starz programs to generate pop culture buzz.

SEE ALSO: Chris Albrecht Hunts for Hits as He Reinvents Starz

In the process he dropped the tidbit that he tried to convince Universal to produce “50 Shades of Grey” as a TV series for Starz by offering the studio a three-year commitment.

“I told them you won’t have to worry about box office, you won’t have to worry about a (content) rating,” Albrecht said. His pitch went nowhere, but it was worth a try.

Albrecht talked up Starz’s slate as an effort to broaden the cabler’s viewership base with a wider variety of programs than it has offered before. Those include the filmmaking competition series “The Chair,” coming in September, and new scripted shows from such auspices as Steven Soderbergh and Seth MacFarlane.

Fantasy drama “Outlander” aims to tap into the “Game of Thrones” audience with an epic story based on an established book series, while “The Missing” is an intense emotional thriller revolving around a child abduction.

Two of Starz’s shows, drama “Power” and upcoming comedy “Survivor’s Remorse,” also feature largely African-American casts. “Power,” which has been renewed for a second season, has garnered the largest concentration of African-American households for a pay TV series since “The Wire.”

Albrecht was blunt in noting that “white people don’t (usually) watch shows that don’t have a lot of white faces in them. That’s going to take some time” for the show to build an audience, but he emphasized his support for the series that features Omari Hardwick as a New York City nightclub owner who lives a double life as a drug kingpin. “It’s a really good show,” Albrecht said.

Beyond programming, Albrecht addressed the challenge of breaking new shows and the struggle for Starz shows in particular to garner attention with media and with viewers.

“Maybe we should spend more money on marketing for the second season of a show,” he said, after noting how long it takes for shows to build awareness. And he said he was puzzled as to why some Starz shows don’t get more media attention.

When asked how he feels, as the head of an indie cable programming group, about the wave of consolidation among MVPD giants, with the pending mergers of Comcast and Time Warner Cable and DirecTV-AT&T, Albrecht turned the ham and showed his legs comically shaking. And then he chose his words carefully.

“There’s no reason why it can’t be a win-win,” Albrecht said. “It’s critically important that people don’t use their muscle to take advantage of their longtime partners — who were certainly a part of the success that (allowed) them to make these mega-mergers — there’s no reason why seasoned, fair-minded professionals can’t make this a win-win.”

Albrecht was even forthcoming when asked to contrast his current role at Starz with his old job at HBO. He smiled and noted that he’d had the experience of working with a programming budget “over $1 billion, and with one that is a lot less than that. That means two very different ways of approaching your work in the morning.”

He acknowledged that running Starz, which remains the subject of acquisition rumors now that it’s a standalone public company, “is more challenging than the 22 years I spent at my former premium cable employer … but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.”

More TV

  • Gina Rodriguez'Someone Great' film premiere, Arrivals,

    Gina Rodriguez Apologizes After Rapping N-Word in Deleted Instagram Video

    “Jane The Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez has released an apology video shortly after she used the N-word while rapping along to a Fugees song in a video posted to her Instagram story. In the original video, which has since been deleted, Rodriguez raps along to “Ready or Not” while having her hair and makeup done. [...]

  • Tom Succession

    'Succession' Season 2 Finale Scores Over 1 Million Viewers

    “Succession” concluded its second season with a tense Roy family yacht trip, watched by over 1 million total viewers. According to HBO, 1.1 million total viewers tuned in to Sunday’s finale across all platforms, which is up 12% on the season 1 closer which garnered 1 million sets of eyeballs. The premium cabler expects total [...]

  • 100 Días para Enamorarse

    Pierluigi Gazzolo on Viacom International Studios, the Spanish-language Market

    CANNES —  The L.A. Screenings represented the coming out of Viacom International Studios, which hit the market, then Conecta Fiction in Spain, with a powerful presentation of trailers. The Conecta Fiction lineup signaled that VIS is also open to co-production and collaboration with creators in not only Latin America but far beyond; “To Catch a [...]

  • Lagardere Acquires Spanish Outfit Veranda; Launches

    Lagardere Launches New Production Label Cameron's

    Lagardère Studios is ramping up its content strategy with launch of Cameron’s, a new production label dedicated to international programming. Cameron’s is being created by Jean-Charles Felli and Christophe Tomas, who previously founded Save Ferris Studios. The label will be delivering content mainly for streaming services. Felli and Tomas have tapped Gregory Cantien as managing [...]

  • eSports

    eSports Comedy Scores Put Pilot Order at CBS

    CBS has given out a put pilot order for a comedy set in the world of eSports, Variety has learned. The untitled single-camera series follows a recently retired pro basketball star who attempts to reconnect with his estranged son by buying an eSports franchise. Dan Kopelman will write and executive produce. Aaron Kaplan and Dana [...]

  • David Lindelof Watchmen Premiere

    'Watchmen' Creator Damon Lindelof Weighs in on Martin Scorsese's Marvel Criticisms

    Damon Lindelof disagrees with Martin Scorsese about his recent claims that Marvel movies don’t qualify as cinema. The director’s proclamation, along with the polarized critical reception of “Joker,” are the latest salvos in a long history of questioning comic book movies’ place in cinematic history. The lingering question: Can superhero fare be considered “high art?” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content