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STARZ Subscriptions Down 300K in U.S., Flat at 16.7M Globally in Q1 2022, as COVID Slows Content

Michael King

In their Q1 2022 earnings call on Thursday afternoon, Lionsgate officials reported that STARZ OTT subscribers remained flat at 16.7 million globally from the numbers reported last quarter. However, the company lost 300K subscribers in the U.S. as of the end of June 2021.

Domestically, OTT subscribers were up 31% year-over-year and 58% globally, despite the slowdown from last quarter.

The company says, “the strong opening of “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” two weeks after the quarter ended sparked a return to strong global subscriber growth which we expect to continue for the rest of the year.”

Company officials were very confident about the opening of the new series.

“‘Kanan’ obviously premiered … to huge numbers; huge viewership and simply put, if ‘Kanan’ was six weeks earlier, we would be having a different sequential conversation that we’re having right now,” officials said.

Last month, Lionsgate, parent company of STARZ, acquired the majority of Spyglass Media Group’s film library. Spyglass’ catalog is around 200 titles deep. While the company name itself may not be as front-of-mind as Lionsgate, their roster includes a sampling of popular, evergreen franchises like the upcoming new entry into the “Scream” series, scheduled for a January 14, 2022 release. In keeping with Lionsgate’s reputation for films that delve into supernatural horror, Spyglass also has ownership of the revival of the “Hellraiser” franchise with a new title currently in pre-production.

It’s not all Pinheads and plastic masks though, as Spyglass films like 2019’s “The Upside” and the popular fashion competition show “Project Runway” will serve to further diversify Lionsgate’s offerings.

Other noteworthy titles include “The King’s Speech,” “Spy Kids: All The Time in the World,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Butler,” and Tarantino films like “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful Eight,” and “Inglorious Basterds.”

In addition to the films, the deal also includes a multi-year first-look arrangement with Lionsgate Television.

STARZ

STARZ offers a subscription video streaming service that gives access to content on STARZ without the need of a cable subscription. With your subscription, you’ll get access to all of their current originals like Outlander, Vida, and Power.

With your subscription, you’ll also get access to their critically acclaimed catalog of previous shows, as well as past seasons of shows like “Friday Night Lights”, “The Bernie Mac Show”, “ALF”, and “Miami Vice” and “Knight Rider.”

STARZ also has new-release films from Sony Pictures, which appear on the streaming service 7-8 months after they are in theaters. Every month they also have hundreds of additional older movies from major movie studios.

You can subscribe for $8.99 a month either directly from STARZ, or through Amazon Prime Video Channels, Apple TV Channels, or Roku Premium Subscriptions.

Also last month, Lionsgate-owned STARZ took Disney to court in Brazil, preventing them from using the Star+ name for its streaming service in that South American nation when it launches later this month because the Star+ brand can be too easily confused with STARZ. A temporary restraining order was granted by a Sao Paulo judge.

“The plaintiff (STARZ) proved to have priority of use and registration in Brazil over the wordmark ‘STARZPLAY,’ including for identifying entertainment services, which grants it the right to protect its reputation and material integrity,” according to a statement released by Judge Jorge Tosta.

Tosta went on to say that Star+ “will offer entertainment services identical to those already provided by the plaintiff, especially in relation to streaming service.”

He went on to explain the possible confusion with the name. STARZ offers a global streaming service, Starzplay, which was trademarked in Brazil in 2019.

“Obviously, a consumer, when referring to the streaming services offered by the parties, will not do so by saying that he watched a movie through ‘STARZPLAY’ or ‘STARPLUS,’ but simply through ‘STAR,’” Tosta said. “There is the possibility of the consumer confusing or linking one trademark to another, as if it belonged to the same business or economic group.”

Netflix made a huge splash in the spring when it outbid competitors to land Sony’s upcoming slate of films. The deal was seen as a blow to STARZ, the studio’s old streaming partner. But STARZ made a deliberate decision not to duke it out.

STARZ President and CEO Jeff Hirsch says his service finds its primary audience among women, and its shows like “Outlander” and “Power” cater to that audience. The programming strategy is to double down on content for those loyal viewers because STARZ is focused more on retention than acquisition.

As Hirsch explained at MoffettNathanson’s Media & Communications Summit, the big new titles often draw in a large audience, but since STARZ offers a free trial, many users might sign up, watch the film, and then vanish.

“Fifty percent of the movies that were coming from Sony (that we were paying for) did under $10 million at the box office. And if you look at our top 10 movies over the last 12 months, if you take ‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Venom,’ and ‘Jumanji’ out, none of the other movies that we got during the year were in the top 10,” Hirsch said.

STARZ sees greater value from older movies that still flow into the service. Titles like Disney’s “Frozen” and “Inside Out” are available on STARZ, which provide a nice perk for subscribers, but they’ve been out of theaters so long, it’s unlikely someone would sign up for a free trial just for those types of films.

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