Starz channel headed to Canada through Bell Media, Lionsgate pact

The agreement also gives Bell Media exclusive first-window access in Canada to Lionsgate's slate of feature films.
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Bell Media and Lionsgate have inked a long-term deal to bring U.S. network Starz north of the border.

The pact will see Bell Media-owned pay-TV channel The Movie Network (TMN) Encore be rebranded to Starz in early 2019, when the new channel will officially launch. The deal gives Bell Media access to a broad slate of Starz programming, which the Canadian media co said it will deploy across its various assets including the re-branded pay TV Starz channel and CraveTV. Starz has a combined catalogue of over 7,000 films and TV series, including original series such as The Girlfriend Experience, crime-thriller Power and upcoming drama series Sweetbitter.

The agreement also gives Bell Media exclusive first-window access in Canada to Lionsgate’s slate of feature films, which will air on both the Starz channel and Bell Media’s French-language pay-TV network Super Écran. In a press release, the companies called the deal a “ground-breaking move… to compete for premium subscribers on all platforms.”

The partnership between Bell Media and Lionsgate marks the first time that Starz has been available in Canada, as well as the first time it has launched in a new market since Lionsgate closed a deal to acquire the network in December 2016. The deal was valued at around USD$4.4 billion.

“Bell Media is the ideal partner to introduce Starz to Canadian audiences,” said Lionsgate president of worldwide television and digital distribution, Jim Packer, in a statement.  “The Canadian marketplace offers tremendous opportunities for growth, and this multifaceted agreement enables us to deliver the robust slate of Starz premium programming as well as the future first pay television window for Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment films to Bell Media platforms.” (Summit Entertainment is a California-based production and distribution company owned by Lionsgate).

For Lionsgate, the deal was negotiated by EVP and managing director of worldwide TV sales in Canada, Susan Hummel, who was tapped to lead Lionsgate’s first Toronto-based distribution office last year, as well as president of worldwide television and digital distribution, Jim Packer, SVP corporate development and strategy Miles Delaney, Starz VP of corporate strategy and development Brad Worthington and Starz international executive Superna Kalle. For Bell Media, the deal was negotiated by VP of strategy and distribution Jeff Hersh, VP of pay and OTT services Justin Stockman, president of distribution and pay Tracey Pearce, and president Randy Lennox.

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