Inside Content: Darren Nielson, StarzPlay
Toby Russell Chief Executive Officer
In this episode of ‘Inside Content - the TV Industry Podcast’, I speak with Darren Nielson, SVP of Business Development at Starz. He has been responsible for launching StarzPlay, the international premium SVOD platform, in over 30 countries, including building dozens of distribution partnerships across global OTT platforms, local telcos and retail partners.
Darren discusses how unlike other services in the market, StarzPlay is a curated service that is almost exclusively focussed on premium scripted drama tailored to adults. With exclusive TV series premiering on their service, often day and date with the US, this is a key acquisition driver for the platform tto compliment the service offering and aid subscriber retention they also include library series and films.
One of the highlights of the episode was discussing StarzPlay “partner-first” distribution strategy. Darren explains that they have extensive global and local partnerships with OTT platforms, Telco’s and consumer electronic businesses such as Amazon, Apple, Telfonica and Roku. Darren explains that their distribution strategy is different from others, and that their focus is on working collectively with partners to drive growth - something he thinks offers a lot of value. “Our vision is a bit different, which is let's build our brand alongside our partner brands... let's integrate with them in a way that makes the most sense for their platform and we can work together to build up the service and the brand.” Darren explains that this approach resonates with partners because in an increasingly dominated direct to consumer (D2C) world, there are fewer options for platforms such as telco’s or OTT’s to partner in this way with premium services like StarzPlay.
Darren discusses that they have a three pronged distribution approach: global partnerships, local partnerships and their D2C business. Unlike other platforms they don’t rely on their D2C business to build their value proposition and instead it provides a great first party data source, a way for them to test and to build a solid relationship with customers. Darren explains that the core focus for StarzPlay is global and local partnerships and they take a flexible approach in terms of the different models that they offer. The different iterations can include bundles, a la carte, app, billing arrangements (where the partner just manages the entitlements, authentication and billing) and also a managed service (where the partner hosts the service on their platform and all consumption happens within their environment). Darren explains that it is important to work with partners on a bespoke basis to agree a model that works for them. To date, many partners have opted for a managed service approach. This is where StarzPlay delivers all the files to their partners and this content lives in a branded area on the partners platform and it is integrated within their search discovery and merch - whether it is editorial or algorithmic. Darren explains that this provides a lot of value to their partners, as the experience feels holistic to their existing environment, their partners control the customer relationship entirely and have access to all of the data and insights to drive business decisions. He discusses how this approach strongly resonates with a lot of their partners, as data sharing is not something that many other D2C platforms support, as they are wanting to manage the customer relationship directly.
Other topics discussed include StarzPlay’s positioning in the market, their relationship with parent company Lionsgate and the need for streaming video aggregators.
Here is a breakdown of what we discussed in the episode:
[01:33] What is StarzPlay’s content curation strategy?
[07:07] What is StarzPlay’s partner distribution approach?
[13:15] What are the different partnership business models that StarzPlay offers?
[14:00] What is your managed service approach for partners?
[15:52] Do you have access to partners data?
[17:40] Do you think there is a need for streaming video aggregators in the market?
[19:55] Can you tell us about Starz relationship with Lionsgate? How important is that in-house content relationship?
[25:17] There is a lot of consolidation happening in the industry such as the Amazon and MGM merger - will this impact your strategy?
[28:00] What shows have you got coming up that you are excited about?