In August, Starz lost “The Continental,” the upcoming prequel series based on the “John Wick” action franchise. Instead, it will go to Peacock — even though the premium cable network and the franchise share the same corporate parent in Lionsgate. At the RBC Media Conference Tuesday, Starz CEO Jeff Hirsh on Tuesday shed some light on the move.
Hirsh said that the show “really doesn’t fit our two core demos,” which include African American audiences enamored with the “Power” universe and women who have helped make “Outlander” a hit. And though he said “The Continental” could have been “a great success” for Starz, Lionsgate is in the midst of trying to separate from Starz and prove that both sides of the business can get the best bang for their buck.
“We felt in terms of maximizing shareholder value, it probably would be better for the organization if they took it out and sold it somewhere else versus on Starz,” Hirsh said. “I think at the end of the day, when the calculus is kind of settled, it’s probably 7-8x better for the shareholders that we did that with it versus it being on Starz. I think it would have been a great success for us. But I think all of us working together at Lionsgate, we’re trying to maximize shareholder value. So that was the right decision. But that’s kind of way we work together today. And I think we will work together when we move forward as a separate company.”
“The Continental,” Hirsh said, is a good example of how the Lionsgate studio and Starz work together well. The reality though, he conceded, is Starz has to “get bigger or become part of something bigger and not stand still” in order to continue to compete and generate the most value.
To that end, Lionsgate vice chair Michael Burns updated the RBC conference on the timeline for separating the studio and Starz. He said the media company plans to file a deal by the end of March and complete the separation by the end of its fiscal second quarter 2023 — the end of next September. A source also indicated that Lionsgate continues to have productive discussions around finding a buyer for either the studio or Starz.
Hirsh touted the value of Lionsgate’s 17,000-title library and said that, outside of Sony, there’s no other independent library quite like it on the market.
“The studio is going to be in really good shape in terms of that true arms dealer, and they’ll have a lot of interest on the Starz side,” he said. “I think we are going to either have to get bigger or become part of something bigger. I think that will happen as well. Do I believe that we can continue to be successful the size we are today? Absolutely. I think our focus strategy and I think our team will continue to grow in the business, but it’s a tough environment out there.”
“The Continental” will launch on Peacock in 2023 as a three-part event series and on Amazon Prime Video internationally. The series is set in 1975 and stars Colin Woodell playing Ian McShane’s character from the “John Wick” films, examining the story of how he fought to take control of the iconic hotel that would later become the home of contract killers and criminals from around the globe.