Starz is getting an image makeover.
Beginning April 5, the premium cable network will have a new logo and a new tagline—“Starz: Obsessable.” Sibling cabler Encore is also being drawn under the Starz brand umbrella with a new name and programming strategy. The primary Encore-branded channel will be rechristened Starz Encore and will carry previous seasons of Starz’s original series alongside the network’s library of classic films. Encore’s multiplex channels — including Encore Action, Encore Family and Encore Western — will be similarly rebranded with the Starz name. The combined Starz service will now include 14 channels.
The move comes as Starz continues to build its subscriber base on the back of an original programming strategy aimed at underserved audiences such as women and African-Americans. Starz has nosed past Showtime as the No. 2 pay cabler in subscribers with 23.6 million, although Showtime has added an undisclosed number of digital-only subscribers during the past year. And like HBO and Showtime, Starz has begun to shift toward a strategy meant to court digital viewers.
Part of the strategy is a forthcoming streaming app. The expedited timeline for the rebranding process, which took seven months from conception to launch, was in part built to get the branding out ahead of the app’s rollout. The design, developed with the marketing firm Troika, is meant to evoke the user experience of digital streaming services.
“I liken it to taking the house down to the studs and rebuilding it,” said Jeffrey Hirsch, Starz global maketing and product planning president. “Every aspect of the house when you move in has to be done. So all of that stuff is on that same timeline.”
Hirsch initiated the rebranding project shortly after being brought in by Starz CEO Chris Albrecht from Time Warner Cable in July. The Encore component in particular was designed to help cable operators better promote Starz’s suite of channels to customers. Although it is less watched than Starz, Encore boasts roughly 9 million more subscriber households than its sibling, as it is typically sold on a lower tier of movie networks. The company is betting that rebroadcasting reruns of its originals will motivate some of those 9 million to subscribe to Starz.
Evidence suggests they might. Nielsen found that during a January trial, more than 700,000 households not subscribed to Starz tuned in to reruns of “Black Sails” on Encore, and that 2% of those households went on to subscribe to Starz and watch season 3.
“Premium is really sold at the distributor level,” Hirsch said. “They do the heavy lifting promoting the channels, right down to the call center level where the sell-in happens.”
The new Starz branding will debut just four days before the second season of one of the network’s most popular shows, “Outlander.” It was the fan engagement for “Outlander” and other originals that inspired the “Obsessable” tagline’s creation.
“We just kept seeing on social, ‘I’m #obsessed,’ whether it was on the Starz pages or on our show pages,” said Alison Hoffman, Starz executive vice president of marketing. “We thought there was something there.”
With somewhat sparse overlap between the audiences for series such as female-skewing period piece “Outlander,” the gritty urban drama “Power,” and fanboy-friendly horror-comedy “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” Starz latched onto the notion of fandom as a unifying theme for its marketing strategy as the company heads toward its next evolutionary phase.
“When you married the programming strategy to what we were seeing in the reaction, it kind of fell into place,” Hirsch said.