All the cool kids are doing it. Today (April 5), Starz launched its own streaming app, following fellow premium TV channels HBO and Showtime into the unbundled business.
The app, also called Starz, costs $9 a month and is initially available on Apple and Android devices. HBO’s streaming service, HBO Now, costs $15 a month, while Showtime’s streaming service costs $11. All three apps can be purchased without needing to subscribe to a traditional cable TV package.
What makes the Starz app stand out is that subscribers can download shows and movies, in addition to streaming them. Neither HBO Now nor Showtime allows downloads.
Starz was already available to consumers outside the cable bundle as an add-on to an Amazon Prime subscription. This new app, though, marks the first time the premium channel has been available as its own, standalone app, that’s not tied to any other subscription service. The New York Times first reported the news yesterday (April 4).
Approximately 20 million Americans pay for broadband internet, but don’t subscribe to a television subscription through a cable provider like Comcast or Time Warner Cable. In order to reach these people (but also to compete with the growing popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu), prestige TV networks are now offering their exclusive shows and movies to people who might otherwise never pay for an expensive cable bundle.
With 23.6 million subscribers, Starz is now the second most popular premium channel in the US behind HBO, according to data from SNL Kagan. It narrowly beats out Showtime, which has 200,000 fewer subscribers.
Starz, arguably, has the weakest slate of original programming of the three. Its current shows include Black Sails, an adventure drama about pirates, and Power, a drama produced by rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. The channel has yet develop a signature hit like HBO’s Game of Thrones or Showtime’s Homeland.
Starz is developing an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s popular modern fantasy novel American Gods, which has the epic scope and cult following that could perhaps make it the channel’s first knockout.
One other thing on Starz’s side: the Force. Starz acquired the exclusive rights to air Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the US, beginning later this year both on TV and in the new app. In Canada, Netflix owns the rights to the film.