After previously insisting that it has had no discussions about going direct-to-consumer, Starz now said it is about to complete agreements to distribute its offerings outside the pay-TV ecosystem.
Speaking to investors during the premium programmer's third-quarter earnings call Friday, company CEO Chris Albrecht said, "It has become clear to us the importance of Starz unlocking opportunities to distribute our content beyond the traditional cable bundle, tapping into unmet demand we are seeing for our content, while at the same time still cultivating our core business with MVPDs."
Albrecht added that in the "coming weeks" Starz executives plan to complete agreements on this new distribution strategy with several new partners. He didn't specify who these partners are, or describe what such a distribution strategy existing outside pay-TV might look like.
Starz' larger competitors, HBO and Showtime, already distribute their programming through over-the-top SVOD channels.
Albrecht also said the new distribution play is an "opportunity to expand the universe" of customers not just for Starz, but for pay-TV operators, as well.
Albrecht's comments seem to represent a significant strategic pivot for Starz, given that company spokesman Eric Becker told FierceCable in July, "There has NEVER been any discussion about going direct-to-consumer."
Starz reported revenue of $404.1 million for the third quarter, missing analyst estimates of $422.99 million. Subscriptions rose to 23.3 million, up around 1 million from a year ago.
In October, Starz was reported to be in advanced talks to merge with Lionsgate. Albrecht did not address those reported discussions during the company's conference call.
Starz CEO Albrecht cool on direct-to-consumer OTT plans
Starz allegedly asked DirecTV, Comcast and others to fake revenue, subscriber information
Starz back in merger talks with Lionsgate, reportedly the 'advanced' kind