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This is How STARZ and Epix are Thinking About Streaming Growth

Fern Siegel

Two top executives —Michael Wright, president of MGM/Epix, and Alison Hoffman, president of domestic networks at Starz, discussed the future of their networks at an industry streaming event.

Wright’s priority, when he took charge of Epix three years ago, was to significantly up its distribution. Initially, it was only available in 40 million homes; now EPIX counts 85 million cable subscribers. Its digital platform is Epix Now, which is available directly, through Live TV Streaming Services, and digital aggregators like Amazon and Roku.

Epix delivers original series, such as “Pennyworth” and “Britannia,” as well as numerous James Bond movies and curated content from MGM, its parent company.

But given the expense of expansion, he said Epix chose to team with the “thriving MVPD system. MVPDs are a no-brainer for us. They’ve got this giant audience,” he explained at the Fierce Video Streaming Show.

Wright says Epix works with Comcast, DirecTV, Dish to “make our product a high-quality, lower-cost option for them.” The bet paid off; he says subscriptions, which target sophisticated adults who value good storytelling, have grown.

Season two of the company’s “Pennyworth” debuts Dec. 12, “Bridge and Tunnel” has been greenlit for a six-episode season premiering Jan. 24, 2021, written, directed and produced by Edward Burns (“Saving Private Ryan”). “Godfather of Harlem” has begun production on its second season.

It’s all part of Wright’s larger philosophy: He is a big believer in “addressable markets,” which for Epix is “television for movie lovers.”

Similarly, Alison Hoffman, who was promoted from CMO to president of domestic networks at Starz in April, credits nimbleness with streaming growth. Hoffman was one of the executives behind the launch of the Starz app, launched in 2016, to compete with OTT rivals HBO Now and Showtime.

Hoffman’s strategy to retain subscribers is to drill down into their specific content preferences, she explained at the conference. Starz found that viewers who consume a number of originals are more loyal to the platform than those who see one and return to library content.

“You have to start early with retention. It can’t start at the cancel flow process,” she said. “Serving a customer who’s watching an original series and another original that feels likeminded becomes a priority.”

It’s why Starz has transformed into a data-driven business — and reacts accordingly. For example, when Starz saw the audience interest surrounding the convention of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere, it offered “Seduced,” A docu-series about the cult. When interest pivoted to the election, it focused on streaming political shows, like “Boss” and “The White Queen.”

Starz is also available in subscriptions via other streaming services like Hulu, and digital aggregators like Prime Video Channels.

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