Starz takes a page from HBO's playbook, launches standalone OTT service

Premium network Starz has finally made good on CEO Chris Albrecht's pledge to bring its content to online audiences in a subscription format, announcing a new $8.99 monthly standalone service that allows viewers to stream its content on demand without having to go through a pay-TV provider.

Starz's subscription price is competitive, compared to rival HBO Now's $14.99 monthly standalone rate and Showtime Anytime's $10.99 price. It also allows the same number of simultaneous device streams -- four -- as HBO Now, and is available on Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS and a wide range of Android devices.

"Starz has entered the market today with an enormous value proposition for consumers," said Albrecht in a prepared statement. "Our programing will now be more widely available to the 20 million broadband only homes of cord nevers, cord cutters and cord shavers, including Millennials and other underserved consumers who need other viable subscription service options."

Existing Starz subscribers who access the channel through their cable subscription can also use the app to authenticate and watch the network's content on demand.

Adding a direct-to-consumer streaming option likely became a competitive necessity in the wake of HBO's well-publicized launch of its standalone service -- the first premium channel to do so -- in April 2015. Albrecht at the time held fast to the strategy of keeping Starz in the pay-TV sphere, betting on its fast-expanding slate of original content to draw new cable subscribers.

He didn't completely dismiss the idea of adding a standalone option, however, and by the end of the third quarter, Albrecht revealed that the network was exploring ways to free its content from cable. "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," he said according to a November FierceCable article.

Starz' standalone app isn't the only way the premium channel reaches cord cutters: the network joined Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Streaming Partners program in December, enabling Prime subscribers to sign up for Starz on demand via a discounted membership that essentially gave them authenticated status.

For more:
- see the release
- see this NYT article (tiered sub.)

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