Streaming content is about as competitive as a business gets these days, but don’t tell that to Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch. He’s aggressively moving to establish the Lionsgate-owned premium programmer around the world while the time is right for his company to stake its claim.
“Other than Netflix, we’re probably be the second or third largest pure-play SVOD around the world,” said Hirsch on the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business.” “We have a three to four year window where we’re out running ahead of everybody.”
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Hirsch is positioning Starz as an add-on service that subscribers would be willing to sign up for on top of other streaming providers like Netflix or Amazon. But Starz needs to move fast while Disney Plus, for example, is still trying to get its operation off the ground, which may mean the company won’t be streaming overseas until 2021 at the earliest.
Currently in 50 countries, Starz hopes to be in as many as 90 over the next three years, and projects as many as 15-20 million global subs by 2025.
The international focus has transformed Starz, which has begun to rethink its approach to programming in order to most effectively court international audiences. There’s even preliminary plans to begin moving toward localized content that will see the company’s internationally based hubs create for their own territories. “We think we have boots on the ground in the right places where we can get to local content,” he said.
Hirsch wouldn’t comment on the prospect that Lionsgate could sell Starz to CBS Corp., but he feels his company is prepared for whichever direction the future takes him. “I feel we’ve created a really unique mousetrap around the world, and while we don’t talk about M&A publicly, it puts us in a very, very unique position,” he said.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Past episodes include conversations with Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Dana Walden, co-head of 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Television Group. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.