Can Starz Give Showtime and HBO A Run For Their Money?

Last night, Nikki Finke reported that cable channel Starz will appoint Chris Albrecht, HBO's disgraced former chairman, as the network's new CEO starting in January. You may recall Albrecht's impressive reign at Home Box Office, where he nurtured a surge in original programming (The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, The Wire and more), but you may also remember that he unceremoniously departed HBO after he was arrested for assaulting a woman in Las Vegas. Either way, Starz is ignoring Albrecht's rap sheet and hoping that the creative genius can beef up its meager (but ambitious) original programming lineup. Will it work?

Albrecht is slated to take the network's reigns from CEO Robert Clasen, who will retire after developing a handful of series for the 15-year-old pay channel -- including the TV adaptation of Crash, which is currently in its second season and has only garnered so-so reviews. Starz has gotten some buzz from the steady string of high-profile guest stars (including Jerry Seinfeld, Andy Dick, and Sandra Bernhard) who have guested on its therapy comedy Head Case, but by far the hottest series to come to fruition at the channel has been the comedy Party Down. Some of that could be attributable to first-season regular Jane Lynch, but when the series about a Los Angeles catering business returns next season, Megan Mullally will replace Lynch, appearing alongside Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan.

If there was any doubt that Starz was gambling on new material, it dissipated yesterday when the network announced that it was ordering a second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand before the show has even premiered. Still, that's the only new 2010 project the channel can tout so far.

If Starz has one main obstacle to overcome, it's establishing a brand. Audiences knew to expect a certain level of quality when HBO premiered Bored to Death and Hung, or when Showtime debuted Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara. HBO and Showtime both have nearly 20 years of experience on Starz, and both channels have reputations. We'll see if Albrecht can make up for lost time.

· Ex-HBO Chief Chris Albrecht To Be Named New CEO Of Starz [Deadline Hollywood]


  • Daryl Zero says:

    The first show greenlighted under the new regime will be a half hour sitcom about Ike Tuner, called "The Beat Goes On"

  • Old No.7 says:

    All will be forgiven with Albrecht if he will improve the quality of the Starz movie streaming on Netflix. Whoever made the decision to digitize their movie catalog in 4:3 aspect needs to be locked in a closet with a Curtis Mathis console forever showing looped reruns of Petticoat Junction.

  • Martini Shark says:

    His first series green-light will be for a spin-off on "Entourage". "Up from the Male Room" will be featuring the effeminate production assistants of a talent agency and their rise through the glass ceiling.

  • Let him do whatever he wants. As long as the hype overshadows the show, like HBO has always done, he'll keep his job for a very long time. And I don't care how awesome it may be, if one more person tells me to watch the fuckin' Wire, I'm gonna go buckwild up in here.

  • Pat says:

    You just need quality programming. There is no limit to the number of under-employed actors looking for quality work. You just need to find good writers and good stories. I know this sounds like ABC work for any network, but the *real* networks want established stars with established creators and producers. Do what cable (HBO) has done in the past and produce high-quality work with smaller stars and make the quality sell. Even Mad Men has been able to sell, because it's such a high-quality product on a minor network. High quality, with sell-able stars, tends to work. Work that mold and see what happens.
    Otherwise, you're trying to establish a brand that you can't hold with quality that you don't have. Mark yourself as a "signature" quality brand early, and people will catch on. You're TV, not movies, at this point. You don't have a Twilight to sell.

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