Starz focuses on retention amid big streaming subscriber growth

Starz recently premiered “Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult." (Starz)

Starz is having a blockbuster 2020 in terms of streaming subscriber growth and the company is locked in on keeping those new customers engaged.

Starz reported its best domestic OTT subscriber growth quarter ever as subscribers increased to 9.2 million, up from 7.4 million in the prior quarter. The company's global OTT subscribers increased by 2.3 million in the quarter to 13.7 million.

Alison Hoffman, president of domestic networks at Starz, spoke Tuesday during the Stream TV Show about her company’s data-centric retention strategies after seeing 142% growth in a short amount of time after the initial coronavirus-related lockdowns earlier in the year. She said it’s imperative to move quickly to ensure Starz can retain the new customers coming in.

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“You have to start early with retention. It can’t start at the cancel flow process. We do a lot in terms of managing the cancel flow and trying to intervene if somebody’s deciding to leave. But it really has to start the minute they become a subscriber,” Hoffman said.

She said creating a stickier subscriber is not just about getting them to watch more content but understanding what types of content will get them to stick around. Starz has found that viewers who watch multiple originals are more likely to stick with a service rather than customers who watch one original and then switch to library content.

“Serving a customer who’s watching an original series another original that feels likeminded becomes a priority,” Hoffman said.

Starz pivoted to a digital, data-driven business model four or five years ago when the Starz direct-to-consumer streaming service launched. A few years after that, the company totally rebuilt its data and analytics team. Hoffman said a lot of the new talent Starz brought in was from the gaming world, which she said brought some fresh thinking about the marketing funnel.

Hoffman said that Starz still gets good customer data from its MVPD and digital distribution partners but that information often takes longer to arrive. She said when Starz saw all the engagement and interest surrounding NXIVM when leader Keith Raniere was sentenced, it was able to react quickly and better position “Seduced,” its docuseries about the cult, on its platform and in its marketing. She said just a week later all attention had shifted to the Presidential election, so it was important that Starz be agile enough to capitalize on that short window of increased interest.