As president of international networks at Starz, Superna Kalle is leading the continued expansion of the premium content streaming service StarzPlay, which is currently in 50-plus markets across Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Quarter after quarter since the pandemic hit, streaming has emerged as a significant bright spot for Lionsgate. The independent studio recently reported that subscribers to its premium pay and streaming brands grew to 28.9 million year-on-year in the first quarter. OTT subs were up 58 percent to 16.7 million, with StarzPlay International subscribers up 106 percent year-over-year to 7 million. Kalle talks to TV Drama about StarzPlay’s unique positioning amid an endless array of OTT platforms.
TV DRAMA: What niche has StarzPlay carved out in the crowded SVOD market?
KALLE: StarzPlay curates best-in-class series and features from the world with global, premium drama for our subscribers—content that is edgy, sexy and of the highest caliber, benefiting from both our relationship with Lionsgate for our feature offering and our network’s incredible home-grown series programming. We have hugely successful original franchises like the Power universe, alongside the best of U.S. and international drama such as The Great across our footprint and Godfather of Harlem and Gangs of London in key territories. We’re also priced relatively inexpensively because we are a complement, not competition, to the SVOD giants. We offer a completely bespoke selection of incredible, entertaining, adult-focused drama for each territory, and we’re seeing the benefits of that strategy in our subscriber growth and retention.
TV DRAMA: You have a great array of U.S. content to deploy on the service. How are you supplementing that with third-party acquisitions?
KALLE: We are always on the lookout for incredible series—and increasingly looking for co-production opportunities for local-language productions directly alongside our third-party acquisitions to create even more avenues for content to enter the StarzPlay ecosystem.
TV DRAMA: Are you acquiring for the entire footprint, or do you do select acquisitions for specific countries or regions?
KALLE: A mix, depending on what we feel will work well and where—and where there are rights available. Having been in operation for around three years in our key territories and growing that footprint almost every month with new partners globally, we have a wealth of data helping us understand exactly what our subscribers want. We also pride ourselves on flexibility, which is how we’ve come to create really interesting and fruitful co-production partnerships—and also be the home of some tentpole series like Killing Eve in key territories like Germany, for example.
TV DRAMA: What sorts of shows are you eyeing as we head into 2022?
KALLE: We’re always looking to expand our offerings with content that fits our brand, but in 2022, much of our focus will be rolling out the original-language content that we have had in production this year as well as expanding into more co-productions.
TV DRAMA: How important are international originals for StarzPlay?
KALLE: It’s an area of growth for us as we enter the next stage of maturity as a global SVOD. We recently partnered with STUDIOCANAL for the upcoming Marc Levy adaptation All Those Things We Never Said, which will star Jean Reno. We have wrapped production on the Spanish-language original Express, with Pantaya and The Mediapro Studio, as well as the Mexican pageant drama Señorita 89 from Lucia Puenzo. We’re actively developing a slate of international originals and look forward to strengthening this offering even further.
TV DRAMA: Is exclusivity required, or are you looking at non-exclusive deals?
KALLE: One of the most attractive elements of our service is that we have content that you can’t find anywhere else, so we aren’t looking to deviate too far away from that. However, we are looking at creative ways to launch original series where we may have a second window in the home territory but exclusively in other key territories. Also, our deal with STUDIOCANAL for All Those Things We Never Said is a good example of forgoing the home territory for exclusivity globally.
TV DRAMA: What gains did you see amid the pandemic, and how do you keep that momentum going?
KALLE: We saw tremendous gains during the pandemic, which of course was due to people being at home, but also our increase of more than 30 partnerships in a short amount of time. We became more available to consumers when they had more time at home to discover us. We are confident that our compelling and exclusive content will keep them engaged in our service for the long term.
TV DRAMA: What are the expansion plans for the service outside of your current footprint?
KALLE: Nowhere is off the table. We’re currently in 58 territories and looking to grow further in the coming months, but at the same time, we are looking to expand our presence with local partners in the territories we are in so that we can be everywhere that the consumer is.