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Lionsgate Film, Distribution Chiefs Talk Possible Studio Business Spinoff, Starz Rebrand

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Lionsgate hasn’t unveiled any megadeal, but top executives at the Hollywood studio talked up the benefits of potentially spinning off its studio business during an investor conference appearance on Wednesday.

“It’s definitely going to help every part of our ecosystem, not only an individual franchise like Hunger Games or John Wick,” Packer told the Wells Fargo TMT Summit during a session that was webcast. Packer, who has recently inked licensing deals for the upcoming John Wick TV origin story The Continental at Peacock, the comedy Ghosts at Paramount+ and Schitt’s Creek at Hulu, insisted the studio will be able to continuing selling titles to a host of streaming platforms, and not just Starz, as the traditional premium cable channel pivots to the streaming space.

And Joe Drake, chair of of Lionsgate’s  Motion Picture Group, predicted no great disruption at his film division as the studio explores its options for Starz, including a possible separation of the pay TV and streaming business and its studio operations. The goal appears to be creating two standalone companies so investors can value the Starz and studio assets separately.

“I don’t think we’re going to operate that differently. What it will do is give everybody real visibility into what the studio is doing and what the value it’s creating,” Drake argued. He and Packer, like other top executives at Lionsgate, recently renewed their long term deals at the studio just as it explores spinning off its studio business as it renames its StarzPlay streaming platform as Lionsgate+ in a slew of markets outside the U.S.

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While some potential suitors appear to see Starz as a streaming platform, others are looking at Lionsgate and its programming library as a possible indie studio acquisition as digital titans like Apple and Amazon muscle into Hollywood. Packer argued the rise of ad-supported streaming platforms has given Lionsgate even more doors to knock on as it looks to sell its content pipeline globally.

At the same time, he pointed to a slight pull back recently among streamers and their acquisition budgets. “There’s a little bit of trimming now and then,” Packer reported.

Drake added the studio continued to weigh the relative strengths of the multiplex or streaming platforms when it comes to launching movies commercially. “Because we still see so much value in the theatrical space, and because Jim and his team can sell to anybody in the world and to any strategy and we’re not beholden to our pipeline, we’re able to flex and do all kinds of things,” Drake argued.

And Packer pointed to Apple TV+ now buying library movie product from outside suppliers, Amazon continuing to buy movies beyond its MGM library and Netflix with its ad-supported streaming offering needing product as suggesting Lionsgate will continue to see a thriving market among streamers for its film and TV content.

“If that ad product works, and I believe it will because Netflix is a sharp company and they’ll figure it out, I think they’re going to want more of their content to be ad-friendly and that’s a new revenue stream we have not really tapped into until now,” Packer said.

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