Starz sees 142% subscriber growth spike amid COVID-19 crisis

Outlander
Starz features original series including "Outlander." (Starz)

With most Americans under orders to stay home to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Starz is seeing a big increase in subscribers for its streaming service.

Starz CEO Jeff Hirsch told CNBC that since stay at home orders were put in place for much of America, Starz has seen a 142% increase in new customers. He also said that the streaming app has seen a 44% increase in average time spent viewing. Starz typically costs $9 per month but right now it's $5 per month for three months.

With lots more time at home, consumers have been relying on streaming video services even more than usual. Netflix and others have seen huge spikes in traffic and newer services like Disney+ have already grown to more than 50 million subscribers.

Nielsen said the amount of minutes spent viewing streaming content grew by about 8.5 billion minutes for the week of April 6 compared to the week prior. The 169.9 streaming minute total is now the most weekly minutes streamed since at least the beginning of March 2020.

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While the short-term effects of coronavirus have been largely positive for streaming video customers, production pauses could have negative long-term impacts. With many TV and film sets closed during the pandemic, a content shortage could potentially lead to higher customer churn levels for SVODs that rely on heavy influxes of new shows and movies.

Hirsch said that Starz isn’t likely to see much impact on content since most post-production work can happen remotely.

“We usually work a year in advance,” Hirsch told CNBC. “So, most of our shows that will come online this year are in post [production]. So, we don’t see us having an interruption this year.”

Lionsgate said in February that global subscribers from Starz, StarzPlay Arabia and Pantaya totaled 28.5 million and that global OTT subscribers totaled 8.6 million. The overall global total reflected a fiscal third-quarter increase of 2.1 million subscribers, up 8% year over year.