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Binge is The New Black

Starz CEO Chris Albrecht  AP Images/Invision
Starz CEO Chris Albrecht AP Images/Invision

Starz – Executive Session

Chris Albrecht – CEO Starz

By: Valerie Milano

Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 7/31/15 – Starz is still a middleweight in the premium cable landscape. Its stock and trade is previously released feature films buttressed with original programming. Starz is mainly a domestic brand with budding ambitions to go global. 2014 saw Starz became the number two most subscribed premium network. And, at this point, it would be considered a boutique network striving to serve the underserved female and African American audience. Their triumphs are modest. 6.4 million multi-platform viewers for their original series Power, which ranks the show as the third most watched scripted series among African American viewers. This year’s Starz is trying to keep up with the Netflix’s by simultaneously releasing all episodes of Da Vinci’s Demons and Flesh and Bone on Starz Play and Starz on Demand. Additionally, Starz also is rolling out its first original movie, The Dresser. Moreover, Albrecht may have coined the catchiest catch phrase of exec sessions, “binge worthy storytelling”.

Black Sails panel
Black Sails panel

Albrecht started off by announcing the return of Black Sails, CHRIS ALBRECHT: “We’ve wrapped shooting Season 3, but we can announce here, we have green lit Season 4. The show’s a great performer for the network, and the stories just keep getting better. Wait until you see Season 3. The scope and the scale of the series demand long production lead-times, and we’re committed to this show.”

Antonio Banderas to Star in Detective Drama ‘Havana Quartet’ for Starz
Antonio Banderas to Star in Detective Drama ‘Havana Quartet’ for Starz

The revival of diplomatic relations with Cuba couldn’t have come at a better time for Starz and their intriguing new series, Havana Quartet, CHRIS ALBRECHT: “Some new development announcements. Havana Quartet, staring Antonio Banderas, based on the four book series of popular detective novels “Havana Blue,” “Havana Gold,” “Havana Red” and “Havana Black” — sounds like bottles of rum — written by acclaimed Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura, and writing the series and showrunning will be Cuban playwright Eduardo Machado, Havana Quartet follows the hard drinking, romantic Cuban police detective, Mario Conde, who longs to be a writer but settled for a job as a detective.”

Puckering up: Riley Keough is kissed by Shaun Benson, her co-star on Starz's The Girlfriend Experience, which is filming in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday
Puckering up: Riley Keough is kissed by Shaun Benson, her co-star on Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience, which is filming in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday

Albrecht invoked the “b” word yet again as he talked about his promising new series, The Girlfriend Experience, CHRIS ALBRECHT: “And since we last met, we’ve had some exciting developments. The Girlfriend Experience from Steven Soderbergh, which we got all the episodes sent to us last night. All the executives are binge watching. Hope they all show up today and Riley Keough has been cast in the lead role, and I think she’s really going to really astonish some people, a lot of people.”

Aside from Havana Quartet and The Girlfriend Experience, Starz biggest hope for a breakout hit might be the Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) adaptation of American Gods, CHRIS ALBRECHT: “I think Bryan Fuller is so talented that he can work anywhere in television.  And the scripts are terrific, and we read, I think, the first two, and then they came in and pitched their vision for Season 1. I’ve sat in a room with a lot of people. I don’t know that I’ve sat in a room with anyone who has more of an impressive take on what they’re about to do. So we’re sad for Hannibal, but I think STARZ gets the benefit of that decision, and we’re thrilled to be in business with those guys.”

Antonio Banderas to Star in Starz Detective Drama Havana Quartet
Antonio Banderas to Star in Starz Detective Drama Havana Quartet

Albrecht spoke at length about Havana Quartet and the fortuitous timing of the series, CHRIS ALBRECHT: “Actually, it’s set in the ’90s, so it’s set at a time when the dream, the sort of communist dream was starting to fray at the edges. But there’s still a lot of the charm. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Cuba. I have. It’s an amazing place to go, and even I went six years ago, but this is I think it’s the right project at the right time, and I think going back is particularly interesting because we want to try to show people what that world was like, and no one’s really got to do it, and we’re hoping to get it shot in Cuba, so that will be a little bit of a trick to accomplish, and I can’t promise that we’ll get it done, but through partners that we will be in business with, we may have a real shot.”

Starz DaVinci's Demons
Starz DaVinci’s Demons

Albrecht was asked about his decision to introduce “binge programming” to the Starz business model, CHRIS ALBRECHT: “One of the fun things about premium and having all these multi platforms is that we can try some different things. It is true, the fans of Da Vinci’s Demons have been waiting. We moved a bunch of stuff around and wanted to get some stuff on early, and fourth quarter is particularly heavy this year, which we think is also a good plan for us. But rather than try to tease it out, we’re just going to drop them, and honestly, we made the decision to turn Flesh and Bone into a limited series for a lot of reasons, but one is that the first eight episodes are so satisfying as a stand-alone story that I think, you know, I mean, even just anecdotally when people started to watch the rough cuts, it’s just “When’s the next one? When’s the next one? When’s the next one?”

Fear The Walking Dead
Fear The Walking Dead

Still considered a domestic brand, Albrecht was asked if he planned to beef up Starz international profile, CHRIS ALBRECHT: “We launched an SVOD service, STARZ Play Arabia, and we’re in early days with that, but it’s a great product in a territory that has an opportunity for us. And we are having a lot of incoming calls from a lot of very interesting people who would like to be in business with STARZ in their territories. And we’re evaluating all those opportunities. But certainly the international marketplace is has great potential for STARZ, because we don’t have a business there, and technology is allowing the implementation and creation of these businesses much more quickly and for a lot less capital.”