The headquarters of Starz, and its sister networks Encore and MoviePlex, are located at the Meridian International Business Center complex in Meridian, Colorado. In July 2015, Starz's programming was available to approximately 30.816 million television households (26.5% of cable, satellite and telco customers) in the United States (30.219 million subscribers or 26.0% of all households with pay television service receive at least Starz's primary channel).
Starz! made its debut as the first phase of a seven-channel thematic multiplex that was launched by Encore over the course of the succeeding eight months, with the remaining six channels being launched between July and September 1994. The multiplex was intended to only include six channels, however on May 31, 1993, Encore acquired the pay cable rights to telecast recent feature films from Universal Pictures released after that year; as a result, TCI/Liberty decided to create an additional Encore service to serve as a competitor to HBO and Showtime. The network carried the moniker "Encore 8" in its on-air branding as part of a numbering system that was used by Encore's multiplex channels. Early trademark filings indicated that TCI/Liberty originally proposed names including "Applause" and "Stars" for the service (the "s" in the latter was ultimately changed to a "z" in the final naming).
Starz! focused more on recent feature films, while Encore focused on films released between the 1960s and the 1980s, before adding recent film fare itself in July 1999. It also held the television rights to releases from Carolco Pictures, Fine Line Features and its sibling studio New Line Cinema, and the Walt Disney Company-owned studios Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax. Films from those studios were not carried on Starz until 1997, after Disney's output agreement with Showtime for its non-family-oriented films concluded. The network restricted the scheduling of films that contained graphic sexual or violent content to late evening and overnight time periods.
Starz's availability was mainly limited to TCI's systems at launch, debuting with a one-month free preview available to prospective subscribers; it would eventually sign its first major carriage agreement outside of the TCI group, through a deal with Continental Cablevision in September 1995. In June 1997, Comcast signed an agreement to carry the network on its Pennsylvania and New Jersey systems to replace Philadelphia-based PRISM after that network shut down that October following the loss of its (and sister network SportsChannel Philadelphia's) sports programming to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. The network gained carriage deals with many other major U.S. cable and satellite providers by the early 2000s, particularly with the adoption of digital cable, allowing for providers to add channels that they (even with capacity expansions of up to 60 channels) previously had limited room to carry. Starz! was available to an estimated 2.8 million pay television subscribers by 1996, only one million of whom had subscribed to a cable or satellite provider other than TCI.
As a startup network, Starz endured major losses during its early years, with total deficits topping US$203 million and annual losses of US$150 million by 1997. It was predicted to lose an additional US$300 million in revenue before it was predicted to break even. Partly in an effort to get the network's substantial losses off its books, TCI announced a deal on June 2, 1997, in which it transferred majority ownership of the corporate entity that operated Starz, Encore Media Group, to sister company Liberty Media; TCI retained a 20% minority ownership interest in Encore Media Group. Liberty Media assumed the former company's stake in the subsidiary in 1999, following TCI's merger with AT&T Corporation.
By May 1998, Starz maintained a subscriber base reaching 7.6 million households with a cable or satellite television subscription. Encore Media Group was later renamed the Starz Encore Media Group in 2000.
As part of a corporate restructuring plan in 2003, Starz Encore Group eliminated 100 jobs in its nine regional offices, and closed four of the offices outright. On March 25, 2005, the Starz Encore Group corporate entity was renamed Starz Entertainment. On November 19, 2009, Liberty Media spun off Starz and Encore into a separate public tracking stock called Liberty Starz.
On January 1, 2010, Chris Albrecht joined Starz, LLC as its president and chief executive officer, overseeing all of the Starz entities including Starz Entertainment, Overture Films, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Film Roman (Albrecht had served as president of HBO from 2002 until he was fired in 2007 following his arrest on assault charges). On August 8, 2012, Liberty Media announced that it would spin off the Liberty Starz subsidiary into a separate publicly traded company. The spin-off of the subsidiary was completed on January 11, 2013, with Liberty Starz changing its name to Starz Inc. as a result.
Depending on the service provider, Starz provides up to twelve multiplex channels – six 24-hour multiplex channels, all of which are simulcast in both standard definition and high definition – as well as a subscription video-on-demand service (Starz On Demand). Starz broadcasts its primary and multiplex channels on Eastern and Pacific Time Zone schedules. The respective coastal feeds of each channel are usually packaged together (though most cable providers only offer the east and west coast feeds of the main Starz channel), resulting in the difference in local airtimes for a particular movie or program between two geographic locations being three hours at most.
The premium film services Encore and MoviePlex, which are also owned by Starz, Inc., operate as separate services; as such, subscribers to one of the services do not have to subscribe to any of the others. Some providers offer Encore and MoviePlex's multiplex channels on a separate digital cable tier from Starz. However, Encore and, depending on its carriage, MoviePlex are frequently sold together in a package with Starz.
Description and programming
The flagship channel; Starz features hit movies and first-run films, from Hollywood blockbusters to independent films and international pictures. The main Starz channel commonly premieres recent theatrically released hit movies – debuting on the channel within a lag of between eight months to one year on average from their initial theatrical release – on most Friday nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, as part of a weekly feature film block called the "Starz Friday Premiere" (originally airing on Saturday nights until 2013, and known as "Starz Saturday Opening Night" until 2002 and "Starz Saturday Premiere" from 2002 to 2013). The channel also airs some original series, with newer episodes airing primarily on Saturday nights.
Starz Cinema carries films outside the mainstream cinema, incorporating critically acclaimed studio and independent releases, and arthouse films; Starz Cinema was launched in May 1999.
Starz Comedy focuses on lighthearted films of varying comedic genres including slapstick, romantic comedies and dramedies. It took over the channel space of Starz! Kids on March 25, 2005; the channel's launch was postponed for three years, as Starz originally planned to launch Starz Comedy as a separate multiplex channel in 2002.
Starz Edge features films aimed at young adults in the 18 to 34 age demographic. It was launched in 1996 as Starz! 2, and was rebranded as Starz! Theater from 1999 until March 25, 2005; in its previous incarnations, the channel's format incorporated a limited selection of films scheduled in a format mirroring the showtime scheduling used by movie theaters.
Starz InBlack focuses on black cinema and urban entertainment, carrying a mix of first-run hits, classic and Pan-African films, and original productions. Launched in 1997 as a joint venture with Black Entertainment Television (BET), Starz InBlack was originally known as BET Movies: Starz! (3) until 2001, when BET opted out of the venture during its purchase by Viacom (then-owner of rival premium service Showtime). It was then named Black Starz! from 2001 to 2005.
Starz Kids & Family
Launched on March 25, 2005, out of the consolidation of the once separate services Starz! Family (which was launched in May 1999) and Starz! Kids (which launched over the channel space now occupied by Starz Comedy in 2003), Starz Kids & Family features commercial-free family movies – including action and adventure movies, dramas and comedies, along with some animated and imported live-action children's series. The channel features two program blocks: "Building Blocks", a weekday morning block of animated series (primarily imported from Canada) and "Six Block", a weekday evening block of imported live-action series aimed at a pre-teen audience. Unlike Encore Family (which replaced Encore Wam in August 2011), Starz Kids & Family features some PG-13 rated films within its schedule, in addition to G- and PG-rated films. Due to its family-targeted format, the network does not broadcast any R-rated movies or TV-MA rated programming, only showing programs that are rated G, PG or PG-13 (or the equivalent TV-G, TV-PG or TV-14).
In 1994, Encore launched the pay television industry's first "themed" multiplex service – seven additional movie channels that each focused on a specific genre. This was intended to include only six channels, but Encore decided to launch Starz as a competitor to HBO and Showtime after it acquired the pay television rights to broadcast films by Universal Studios released after 1993. A numbering system was used for each service to identify itself as an Encore channel, though this system was abandoned for most of the channels in 1996, with the tagline "an encore network" (which Starz! also used, albeit sparingly) being used from then until 2002. Starz continued to heavily include the "Encore 8" moniker in its main IDs, feature presentation bumpers and select bumpers until 2002, even as it transitioned into a separate channel from Encore.
The tie to Encore branding-wise continued even as Starz was given its own slate of multiplex channels in the late 1990s. The first of these to debut was Starz! 2 in 1996, maintaining a set lineup of four different movies scheduled at the same times each day (inspired by the scheduling used by movie theaters) with the slate of films changing each Friday. This was followed in 1997 by the debut of a joint venture with BET Networks called BET Movies: Starz! 3. Two additional multiplex channels began operations in May 1999. Starz! Family carried family-oriented theatrical and home video film releases, was launched possibly in response to HBO's own family-oriented multiplex channel, HBO Family, which debuted three years earlier. The other service was Starz! Cinema, a channel featuring critically acclaimed independent films and movies outside of the mainstream cinema. Starz! 2 was also renamed Starz! Theater to better reflect its format.
The first changes made following the original rollout of the multiplex occurred in 2001, with the rebranding of BET Movies: Starz! as Black Starz! after BET withdrew from the partnership during its acquisition by Viacom (which owned rival pay service Showtime at the time) in 2001. A seventh Starz multiplex channel was launched in 2004: Starz! Kids was created as a movie service featuring films aimed at children between 2 and 11 years of age, maintaining a format similar to that of Starz! Family. Unlike the other Starz multiplex channels, Starz! Kids was launched on cable systems on a case-by-case basis instead of on a broader national scale.
The entire multiplex was overhauled on March 28, 2005, as part of an extensive rebranding of the Starz and Encore services. While Encore debuted a slightly modified logo and applied the "Encore" brand to the names of its six multiplex channels, Starz underwent a more dramatic makeover, with a completely redesigned logo – which included the exclamation mark being dropped from the channel's name – and a standardized graphics package that was implemented across all of its channels (with some modifications for each channel's format). The programming formats of several channels changed entirely: Starz! Theater was relaunched as Starz Edge, a movie channel aimed primarily at men 18 to 34 years old (nicknamed "The New Generation" by the channel). Starz! Kids and Starz! Family were combined into a single channel called Starz Kids and Family, to make room for a new channel focusing on comedic feature films called Starz Comedy. Black Starz! also changed its name to Starz InBlack. The only multiplex channel (other than the primary feed) that retained its original name was Starz Cinema.
The Starz multiplex has been marketed under several names over the years including the "Starz Encore Super Pak" and the "Starz Super Pak". The multiplex now has no "official" marketed name as of 2015[update].
Starz HD is a high definition simulcast feed of Starz that broadcasts in the 1080i resolution format. In addition to its main channel, Starz also operates high definition simulcast feeds of its five multiplex channels. When it was launched in December 2003, the simulcast covered only the east and west coast feeds of the main Starz channel. An enhanced definition simulcast feed and a separate HD channel called Sharper Movies HD, that would have broadcast in the 1080i format and be structured similarly to the original format of sister channel Encore's MoviePlex (in which Sharper Movies would broadcast programming from each Starz channel in daily sampler blocks), were also planned. Plans for the latter service were dropped because of a lack of interest from providers to charge a premium fee for the network. HD feeds of Starz Kids and Family, Starz Comedy and Starz Edge, followed in 2007.
Starz operates a video-on-demand (VOD) television service called Starz On Demand, which is available at no additional charge to new and existing Starz subscribers. The service was launched on September 19, 2001, debuting on Adelphia Communications' Cleveland, Ohio system. The service offers early premieres of feature films that are scheduled to premiere on Starz, up to one month prior to their pay cable debut on the primary linear channel. Starz on Demand's rotating program selection incorporates selected new titles that are added each Friday, and existing program titles held over from the previous one to two weeks. The Starz On Demand name was also used for an online broadband streaming movie service operated by Starz and RealNetworks from 2003 to 2004. In March 2011, Starz On Demand launched a third VOD service (in addition to its standard definition and high definition VOD services), offering movies presented in 3D to customers of Comcast and Verizon FiOS at no additional charge.
StarzPlay is a website and mobile app that features original programming and feature film content from Starz available for streaming in standard or high definition. It is available to Starz subscribers of Verizon FIOS, AT&T U-verse, Cox Communications, Xfinity by Comcast and DirecTV. The current incarnation of the StarzPlay online service (which is structured as a TV Everywhere-style service) was launched on October 8, 2012, with the release of the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch app.
The StarzPlay name was borrowed from a prior service offered in conjunction with Netflix. It was created in 2008 after the subscription streaming service struck an agreement with Starz Entertainment to allow Netflix to sub-license rights to films from distributors that maintain output deals with the linear Starz channel for online viewing – in lieu of acquiring the digital distribution rights on its own, due to the expense of acquiring newer film titles – as Netflix is considered to be merely a "content aggregator". Because Netflix chose to sub-license digital rights through Starz instead of negotiating with the studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures threatened not to renew its output deal with Starz unless it either discontinued its deal with Netflix or paid Disney a licensing fee for digital streaming rights to its films (Netflix will assume rights to most film releases by Walt Disney Studios from Starz in 2016).
StarzPlay (as a Netflix service) was first made available to Starz subscribers of the Verizon FiOS television service. Starz content (including most of its original programming and series content that the channel acquired through domestic and international distributors) was made available on Netflix's "Watch Instantly" platform. It was the third subscription video-on-demand online streaming service operated by Starz: Starz Ticket operated from 2004 to 2006, under a joint venture between Starz Entertainment and RealNetworks. Starz offered its own separate online movie service, Vongo, to its subscribers from 2006 until it discontinued the service on September 30, 2008.
On September 1, 2011, Starz announced that it would not renew its streaming agreement with Netflix, which ended on February 28, 2012; movie titles that are available on DVD from Sony Pictures, Disney and other studios that maintain pay television distribution deals with Starz were not affected and can be acquired from Netflix by this method. With the expiration of the Netflix deal, film content from studios with which Starz maintains broadcast rights were no longer available for online streaming, particularly as Netflix and certain similar services such as Vudu did not have separate streaming rights to films from these individual studios. Prior to the beta launch of its Starz Online service (which became StarzPlay upon its official launch), Starz announced on November 18, 2011 that it was developing a streaming application for mobile devices, allowing the network's subscribers – and in early reports, speculation that possibly non-subscription television subscribers would be allowed as well – to view Starz's series and film content. The app was released on October 9, 2012 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, and on May 7, 2013 for Android devices. An app for the Xbox 360 was released on December 3, 2013, followed by an app for the Xbox One on August 5, 2014 (both are available for no extra charge to Xbox Live Gold members).
StarzPlay is the first Starz-branded service to be localized outside the United States; more precisely within 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, breaching those territories before its biggest competitor in media streaming being Netflix. The service, under the guise Starz Play Arabia, launched on April 2, 2015 for those territories, coinciding in the same week as 2015's MEFCC event where the service was heavily promoted.
In the winter of 2015, the Amazon Prime video streaming service began offering Starz and rival premium network Showtime as add-on subscriptions for their customers; the cost is $8.99 per month, after a seven-day free trial. The content deal between Amazon and Starz not only offers the channel's current and back catalog of programming, but also movies and classic TV series currently airing on Encore and its branded networks, as well as live East Coast feeds of the Starz-branded networks and Encore.
The first-run film output agreement with Walt Disney Pictures expires after December 2015, at which time the Netflix streaming service will assume pay television rights in January 2016 (excluding films released by Touchstone Pictures, which will be retained by Starz through a separate contract). The first-run film output agreement with Sony was renewed for nine years on February 11, 2013; the Warren Miller output deal was renewed for ten years on October 19, 2009.
Films for which Starz has pay-cable rights usually also run on Encore and MoviePlex during the duration of its term of licensing. From 1995 to 2002, Starz had broadcast occasional original made-for-pay cable movies produced by the in-house company Starz! Pictures.
In January 1997, Starz secured a licensing agreement with Paramount Pictures, broadcasting over 300 titles. Paramount's first contract with Starz expired in January 2006. In April 2013, Starz reassumed sub-run rights to Paramount Pictures' feature film releases. Films that were initially broadcast through this deal included Dear God, All I Want for Christmas and Boomerang.
At the time of its launch, Starz had secured exclusive first-run movie rights with Universal Studios, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax, New Line Cinema, and Carolco Pictures. Between 1995 and 2005, Starz had also broadcast films from Turner Pictures and New Line Cinema. Starz's contract with Universal Studios expired in late 2002, with HBO and Starz sharing half of Universal's films during the 2003 calendar year before the former service assumed pay television rights in 2004.
Starz expanded its program offerings to include some original television series by the late 1990s with entertainment news programs and shows that focused on the making of upcoming or current feature films (such as Starz Movie News and Hollywood One on One); some of these programs were also aired on Encore. In 2005, Starz began expanding its original programming slate in order to compete with rivals Showtime and HBO, with the inclusion of scripted series. Some of the initial series (such as Kung Faux, The Bronx Bunny Show and Head Case) maintained running times considered unconventional for a live-action series, usually running under 15 minutes in length; half-hour and hour-long series were eventually incorporated on the schedule by 2010 (including shows such as Torchwood: Miracle Day, Boss and Da Vinci's Demons).
Multiplex channel Starz Kids & Family also features some series programming, which are aimed at young children and pre-teens. That channel runs two program blocks: "Building Blocks", a block airing on Monday through Saturday mornings that features animated series (such as Dragon Hunters, Gawayn, Zombie Hotel, Savage Family Wild and Matt's Monsters) and the "Six Block" (originally named "Camp Block" from its launch in March 2011 until the two-hour block was moved from mid-afternoon slots varying on the movie schedule to a set timeslot of 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time in January 2012), a teen-focused block airing weekday evenings before primetime that features mainly imported series from English-speaking countries outside of the United States like Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom (such as Wingin' It, Majority Rules and Sadie J). The two blocks are similar to those seen on sister channel Encore's multiplex channel Encore Wam between 1994 and 2009.
Starz Entertainment has expanded considerably with the presence of its Starz and Encore family of multiplex networks, as well as ventures into television and film production, and home video distribution.
In 1999, Starz launched the in-house company Starz Pictures, a production company that produced made-for-cable films for the television channel; Starz Pictures' only major film project was the 2002 telefilm Joe and Max. Starz Pictures shut down that same year.
In November 2006, Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett launched Overture Films, an independent movie studio that Liberty Media operated out of its Starz Entertainment division. After a proposed sale of the company failed to materialize through the absence of willing buyers, the studio was shut down in October 2010, with its marketing and distribution operations handed over to Relativity Media; Overture's small library of less than 20 films will continue to be distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment for DVD release and by Starz for television broadcast.
In 2007, Starz Entertainment purchased IDT Entertainment, which was renamed Starz Media. As a result of the purchase, Starz acquired IDT subsidiaries Anchor Bay Entertainment, Digital Production Solutions (DPS), and New Arc Entertainment. The Weinstein Company, a film studio run by former Miramax heads Bob and Harvey Weinstein, purchased a 25% stake in Starz Media (but not the Starz parent company) on January 4, 2011, with Anchor Bay entering into a multi-year domestic distribution agreement of theatrical feature films released by The Weinstein Company and its Dimension Films subsidiary.
As part of IDT Corporation's purchase by Starz, Starz Entertainment also acquired two animation studios: Toronto-based IDT animation studio (formerly DKP Studios), which was renamed Starz Animation, and Manga Entertainment, an international distributor of Japanese animation. A third animation studio that was also acquired due to the IDT purchase, Film Roman, was sold in October 2010 to a production company owned by a group of investors led by former Film Roman studio president Scott Greenberg called Bento Box Entertainment.
Starz's logo has incorporated a star in some form since its launch. In the original logo that was used from its launch in February 1994 until March 2005, the star was composed of a two silhouettes (one star being embedded within a larger one), and a "STARZ!" logotype styled after 1930s-era movie poster typography. The original accompanying graphics were set around a CGI movie theater, with the main network ID featuring seats that opened by themselves, various theater imagery and even images resembling the Caduceus, while feature presentation bumpers also heavily used the movie theater themes (using spotlights and film canisters) and the "Encore 8" branding. The "theater" look that had been used since the network's launch was ultimately abandoned in May 2002, when it switched to a package based around natural themes (particularly water); a seven-note fanfare was also introduced as a musical motif; the new look did not carry over to the multiplex channels. Starz! also introduced the "InfoBar", a lower-third banner graphic that appears on-screen during promotional breaks and during the end credits of films seen on the channel, originally purposed to promote upcoming programs.
This logo was abandoned for an abstract star shooting upwards and a Helvetica Neue wordmark in March 2005 as part of a major rebrand of the network that included a standardized graphics package with modifications for each multiplex channel; the fanfare from the previous graphics package was also reorchestrated. The "InfoBar" also began to be used to promote events on the other Starz networks and to provide entertainment news headlines supplied by Variety (a similar version was adopted for use by the Encore networks). That year, Starz began branding its feature film content with an opaque logo bug appearing on the lower-right corner of the screen for two minutes each half-hour; the addition of the on-screen logos was cited by former Starz president Tom Southwick due to a large number of subscribers not knowing which of the channels they were watching when they tuned in, particularly if started viewing one of the channels after the start of a film.
The current logo was introduced in April 2008, with lowercase "starz" typing featuring a asteroid-shaped star inserted between the "a" and "r"; the coloring of the logo was modified to a gold rendering in April 2011. The channel replaced the opaque on-screen logos with a bright white logo bug on all channels and a bright orange bug for Starz Kids & Family's HD simulcast feed in July 2011. After the current logo's introduction, the "InfoBar" began to once again serve only to promote programming on the main Starz channel, while it serves mainly as a network ID on some of its multiplex channels.
1 Indicates the channel is still in existence, but currently operates as a basic cable channel. 2 Star Channel was part of Warner Communications' QUBE interactive cable service, and was the precursor to present-day The Movie Channel.