Starz: Lights, Camera, Compete

Starz Encore Group’s $40 million creative and media account is in play.

The Englewood, Colo.-based company provides cable television and satellite-delivered premium movie channels. Its 15 channels in the U.S. include Starz! and Encore.

The Richards Group has handled the creative account since 1997. Richards principal David Hall, who heads the account at the Dallas shop, said the agency will not participate in the review.

The media portion of the account is handled by Media Planning, formerly known as SFM Media, in New York. Executives there could not be reached for comment at press time.

Jill Wisehart, the client’s director of consumer and strategic marketing, is managing the agency search. A Starz representative declined to provide details about the review.

Proposals are due back at the client this week.

According to the company’s creative brief, Starz is fighting audience erosion along with the rest of the industry. Premium channel penetration in cable television households has declined to 35 percent from 57 percent within the last decade.

Unlike its competitors, which have added sports, concerts, soft-core porn and other programming attractions, Starz has fought the viewership decline over the past several years by sticking with its all-movie format.

The client’s recent broadcast ads promoted its Starz! Movie Channel with a “Movies, movies, movies” chorus accompanied by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Agencies will be asked to develop four different storyboard concepts focusing on the continued all-movie positioning. Proposed media includes television, radio and magazine print.

Advertising will target former premium subscribers who have abandoned pay channels and subscribe only to basic cable service, or an estimated 30 million households. Starz will take particular aim at 25- to 54-year-old females, the traditional household decision makers.

The client’s branding focus has been its Starz Super Pak, an offering of 12 different channels for $12 per month. Included in the 2002 lineup will be new channels Starz! Comedy and Starz! Kidz.

Starz is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Group, which operates about 100 cable channels, including E!, Encore and QVC.