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Earlier last year Liberty Media released Starz and its sister company Encore into the wilderness to become a standalone publicly-traded network. At the same time, Starz will be losing its partnership with Disney, a major supplier of the network’s movies. This raises the stakes for Starz Chief Executive Chris Albrecht to supply more original content in order to stay afloat. Matthew Harrigan, a media analyst with Wunderlich Securities, says, "Losing those Disney movies makes life a little more difficult, and it becomes even more important for them to create successful original programming."
Albrecht may be up to the job. In his former position at HBO he brought the network much success with hits like Sex and the City and The Sopranos. But Starz is already lagging so far behind its rivals HBO and Showtime in terms of original content. To date its only truly popular show has been the gladiator hit Spartacus. The question for many is: Can Starz really catch up?
Media analysts say going public might be what the network needs to survive. A buyout from a media conglomerate like Walt Disney Co. or News Corp. could give Starz the push it needs to compete with the likes of HBO and Showtime, which have been turning out hit after hit in the last few years. Already both networks are beginning to drop movies in favor of original content, and Starz may have to follow suit if it is to keep up. Starz seems to realize this, having plenty of original series lined up for the next two years, including a pirate adventure from Michael Bay.
Starz executives have no comment on the network’s spinoff, citing a mandatory “quiet period” before public stock offering.