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]