Aiming High: Starz’s Bill Myers

Apr 10, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The player: Bill Myers, president and chief operating officer of Starz Entertainment.
The play: Myers has led Liberty Media unit Starz Entertainment’s effort to add three Starz high-definition channels and HD video-on-demand services for both Starz and sister network Encore—all within the past 18 months. The additional HD programming helped Starz and Encore add more than 4 million subscribers last year, giving the networks a combined 47 million subscribers as of Dec. 31. In February, Starz overtook Time Warner’s HBO in all-day ratings among premium cable channels, posting a 0.7 compared with HBO’s 0.6 rating, according to the Nielsen Co. Starz began HD broadcasts in late 2003, about four years after CBS and HBO became the first free and premium cable networks to do the same. “The real big commitment we made in HD was in the middle of last year,” Mr. Myers said. “We really started seeing the reduction in the price of TVs along with more content in the marketplace.”
The pitch: About 85% of the content on Starz’s flagship HD network is in true high definition, while the network’s Kids & Family and Comedy channels show about 70% of their content in true HD. Starz will begin producing original content this year, starting with an adaptation of the Oscar-winning film “Crash,” which will be shot in HD. “People’s first thought is to go to the HD tier and see what’s there,” said Mr. Myers. “Clearly, having HD adds value. But I think first and foremost, it’s about the overall content that we have.”
The challenge: Cable operators will have to limit the number of HD on-demand services they carry from networks such as Starz until bandwidth capacity is expanded. As it is, Mr. Myers says Starz supplies about 26% of the high-definition on-demand minutes that customers order from U.S. cable leader Comcast, which he called a “disproportionate share.” Starz and other cable networks also must contend with the growing number of content providers offering movies via downloads or streaming, such as Amazon.com’s Unbox, Apple TV and Vudu. Starz’s Vongo and Starz Play, which have offered downloads of standard-definition content during the past two years, have no set plans for HD downloads.
Backstory: With the exception of a couple of short stints with start-up companies, Mr. Myers, 50, has worked for either Liberty Media or one-time Liberty parent TCI for almost two decades. At Liberty, he’s had tenures with On Command, which distributed content to hotels, and satellite operator PrimeStar, which has since been acquired by DirecTV. He’d previously worked for eight years as an auditor for accounting and consulting firm KPMG, where some of his clients were cable TV operators. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Los Alamos, N.M., Mr. Myers received an undergraduate degree from New Mexico State University. He’s based in Denver.


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