Liberty spins off Starz

Despite earlier denials, Liberty Media has confirmed it’s spinning off pay-TV unit Starz into a separately traded public company.

As a standalone premium network with licensing agreements in place to run Disney and Sony theatrical films, Starz could present an attractive acquisition target for predators.

Starz closed the second quarter with about 20.7 million subscribers, up 9 per cent. Its Encore movie channels brand ended the quarter with 34.2 million customers, up 4 per cent.

Starz’s movie output deals with Disney and Sony both expire over the next four years. And given the recent increase in the number of bidders for films in the pay cable window — Netflix and rival premium channel Epix are among the new entries — Starz will be challenged to renew those licensing agreements, at least at their current level.

Among potential bidders are Comcast/NBCUniversal, News Corp./Fox, Disney, Netflix, and  Google.

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