Roku appears to be getting more aggressive in its bid for your attention. The Wall Street Journal reports that Roku has partnered with a private-equity firm to bid on a chunk of STARZ, the pay cable channel and streaming service presently owned by Lionsgate.
Lionsgate has been looking to unload STARZ for several months, going so far as to file securities paperwork in November to formalize the separation attempt. Company leaders have been frustrated by staggering valuations for companies like “CoComelon” producer Moonbug Entertainment while Lionsgate stock has remained stagnant for years. The movie studio believes it could unlock more value by spinning off or selling the STARZ entity entirely.
Lionsgate bought STARZ for $4.4 billion in 2016, but the combined company now has a market cap just over $3 billion. In 2019, CBS made an offer to buy STARZ for $5 billion, but Lionsgate rejected the offer.
Roku has been making some aggressive moves lately. Today, the company announced a plan to release 25 original shows or films this year. Just last week, Roku Channel landed an exclusive streaming deal with Lionsgate films. Buying a chunk of STARZ could open a direct STARZ-to-Roku Channel pipeline.
Wall Street has had a hard time deciphering what kind of company Roku is. To the casual observer, they simply make streaming dongles and smart TV operating systems. But the company is aggressively using its ad tech to target viewers, and the expansion of the Roku Channel provides ad revenue from 61.3 million accounts. How the partial acquisition of STARZ may impact the Roku operation is unknown.
For its part, Lionsgate remains something of a streaming arms dealer, selling its films and shows to various streaming companies for limited runs. A hit STARZ show like “Outlander” is available on the STARZ streaming service and on Netflix, though Netflix does not have the most recent seasons.
In September, Lionsgate President of Worldwide Television and Digital Distribution Jim Packer touted the company's strength when it comes to providing AVOD content to companies like The Roku Channel and others.
“Our AVOD revenue — just in the U.S. in 2016, we had about 14 clients, and we were doing less than $10 million of revenue in that segment of my business. In 2021, we have close to 40 AVOD clients, and we’re going to do almost — well, I think we’re going to do over $100 million,” Packer said.
In September, STARZ CEO Jeff Hirsch said the service is meant to be an add-on rather than a standalone service, like its competitors.
Hirsch explained, “There’s these … mass-market kinds of broad streaming services that are really trying to service everything in the home and think that’s the kind of cornerstone of the WarnerMedia-Discovery (type of company). And you’re really trying to service everyone in the home and they’re trying to get somewhere between 300 and 400 million subscribers worldwide,” he said. “That’s not Starz. That’s not how we were ever built. If you think about back to the old linear world, we were always sold on top of cable or satellite as a kind of cherry-on-top of broader services.”
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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 US$8.99 a month either directly from STARZ, or through Amazon Prime Video Channels, Apple TV Channels, or Roku Premium Subscriptions.