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Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch on Netflix, HBO and Starz’s Streaming Growth Strategy

Jeffrey Hirsch TCA
David Buchan/Variety/Shutterstock

There’s a place in people’s home for Starz’s streaming service, asserted Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour Friday, pushing back against the idea that it’s tough for a smaller over-the-top platform to compete with Netflix and others.

“Netflix has done a phenomenal job of convincing everybody in this room and everybody on Wall Street that unless you spend $13 billion (on programming), you can’t compete, and you should take your ball and go home,” he said. “And that’s just not the case.”

Like many others, Hirsch believes that viewers’ budgets will be able to tolerate about four or five different pay-TV streaming services, and that Starz, long an add-on network, will be a complement to Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

He even had a bundling suggestion for viewers.

“We think that Starz, with our focus on female (audiences), coupled with Disney Plus for kids, is a great combination for the home,” he said.

Hirsch added that Starz’s domestic OTT service is growing faster than HBO and Showtime right now, even with less programming available, and touted its global expansion. Starz’s streamer, which has grown its reach to over 50 countries across Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, has about 3 million subscribers, less than half of HBO Now’s 8 million.

“We’re not stopping there,” he told the audience at the Beverly Hilton. “Over the next two to three years, we think we’ll double that number. Starz went from being a domestic-only platform to being available in 50 countries in just over a year.”

In addition to courting an international audience, he premium cabler is targeting a “premium female” viewer, pointing all of its resources toward serving that core demographic.

When asked about not renewing “Now Apocalypse,” Hirsch said that programming “really has to serve that core premium female audience, and if it doesn’t, we need to find something else.”

“If you look at the idea of a linear network, where one show makes the network, like ‘Mad Men’ back in the day (on AMC),” he said. “In the digital world, you have to have shows every two to three weeks, every quarter, that serves that universe. These people who click in and click out – churn is the name of the game here, so if it doesn’t serve our core strategy, we’re just going to not do it.”