Starz Jumps Into OTT Pool

Starz has taken its over-the-top initiative to the next level with a new all-in-one app that supports TV everywhere alongside a new, $8.99 per month direct-to-consumer service that doesn’t require a traditional pay TV subscription.

The Starz service joins HBO Now, a $14.99 per month direct- to-consumer service launched about a year ago, and an a la carte OTT service from Showtime that goes for $10.99 per month.

All three are part of a broader mix of subscription VOD services that include Netflix, the biggest of them all, as well as Hulu, which, last week, began to complement its direct-to-consumer approach with a new one under which Cablevision Systems essentially will sell it as a premium channel that can be viewed via the set-top.

Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder of nScreenMedia, said all traditional premium programmers must go OTT to expand their reach to cord-cutters and other underserved portions of the market, but said they are likewise “heading into some difficult waters” because there will be a limit to the number of SVOD services consumers will take.

“It’s unlikely that people will take all three [HBO, Showtime and Starz] and Netflix, and Hulu,” Dixon said, noting that Starz was smart to go with an OTT price that undercuts its competitors.

Starz’s new entry, primarily targeted to broadband-only U.S. households, launched last Tuesday (April 5) on iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, and Apple TV devices.

The new offering, also accessible to subscribers via Web browsers, is starting off with a library of more than 2,400 on-demand titles and will play up access to Starz originals such as Outlander and Power, as well as a slate of movies including, later this year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Starz estimates that the app is booting up with about 1,600 series episodes and 850 films.

Starz is selling the new OTT service via the Apple App Store and Google Play, which will carry the customer relationship in terms of billing and customer care. Amazon also sells Starz subscriptions as an add-on, for $8.99 per month, to Amazon Prime members.

Starz aims to differentiate its OTT offering in part by letting subscribers download most of the titles in its library for later offline viewing. About 2,200 of the 2,400 assets offered on the new OTT product will have download rights out of the chute, Jeffrey Hirsch, Starz’s president of global marketing and product planning, said.