Lionsgate has promoted Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch to President and CEO of the premium network, inking a new long-term contract. He had been upped to chief operating officer in 2016 and has been running the network since the March exit of former Starz CEO Chris Albrecht.
At the time, the notion was that the CEO position at Starz was being eliminated following the network’s acquisition by Lionsgate which has its own CEO, Jon Feltheimer, to avoid having a company with two CEOs. But over the past few months, Hirsch reportedly impressed his bosses at Lionsgate by leading Starz’ successful OTT and global expansion — Starz is currently in almost 50 countries and is projected to hit 6 million SVOD subscribers by end of fiscal year — as well as the network’s collaboration — and integration — with Lionsgate Television.
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Additionally, Hirsch has made inroads in the Hollywood creative community, raising his profile by stepping in to secure projects in a competitive situation, like horror-comedy Shining Vale and Dangerous Liaisons, and spearheading the expansion of the Power franchise with spinoff Power Book II: Ghost starring Mary J. Blige.
Lionsgate had been expected to bring in a programming executive to partner with Hirsch. In light of his promotion to CEO, that person will likely now report to him.
“Jeff continues to lead Starz’s transformation into one of the world’s premier subscription platforms,” said Feltheimer. “He has a clear strategic vision, great understanding of where our business is headed and strong relationships that will all contribute to Starz’s continued strong growth and evolution.”
Albrecht departed after a decade at the company, and two years after Starz’s acquisition by Lionsgate was completed amid the continued integration of the two companies.
Hirsch, whose current contract was up in 2020, joined Starz four years ago as president of Global Marketing and Product Development, arriving from an EVP and chief marketing officer role at then-Time Warner Cable. He has helped spearhead a growth in Starz’s overall domestic subscriber base from 23.5 million to 24.7 million last year. He also shepherded the launch of the Starz app in the U.S. and aided in Starzplay’s expansion into nearly 50 countries in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and Canada.
The company said it expects to have as many as 15 million-20 million international subscribers by 2025. Starz has more than 4.4 million domestic OTT subscribers with launches during the last year on Apple, Hulu, Roku, YouTube TV and an other platforms. The number is expected to climb to 6 million by the end of the company’s fiscal year in March.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to lead Starz into the future alongside Jon and our team,” Hirsch said in the release today announcing the new deal. “Over the last several years Starz has been on the leading edge of innovation across our industry, transitioning to a digital world with the launch of our App and OTT business and most recently through the expansion of our global footprint. As our evolution continues, our remarkable line-up of premium original series and vast library of content will drive both our domestic and international growth as we look to capture new audiences and subscribers around the world.”