Bob Clasen has done just about everything in the cable industry. He ran Comcast’s cable systems in the U.S. and overseas throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He got involved in the high-tech arena in the late ’90s, running ICTV and Broadband Innovations. And now, as president of sales and marketing for Starz Encore Group, he has added a programming gig to his resume. After working with Starz Encore Group founder, chairman and CEO John Sie on the settlement of a contentious lawsuit between Starz and Comcast over carriage issues, Clasen has moved on to raising Starz’s profile with both distributors and consumers. CW: How will News Corp.’s acquisition of DirecTV affect Starz?
Clasen: It will make everyone more competitive. Rupert Murdoch is a competitive guy. It’s hard to imagine the DBS providers being more aggressive than they’ve already been, but I think that will be the case. CW: Have you completed all your contract renegotiations?
Clasen: We have completed all the Comcast-related affiliate contracts including Insight, US Cable,
Mediacom and Bresnan. We also have a new Charter contract in place. We think we’ll have a contract in front of the folks at Cox within the next couple of weeks, and we have proposals in front of everyone else. CW: Will Starz Encore be sold to Comcast?
Clasen: I have no knowledge of that. I haven’t been involved in any talks of that nature. That’s a better question for the folks over at Liberty Media [which owns Starz Encore Group]. CW: What are your top objectives this year?
Clasen: We have another cluster of affiliation contracts to complete, and we are exploring ways to reach our affiliates and customers. We will better define Starz and the thematic channels in ways that customers will identify with. CW: Has the investment in SVOD rights for all your movies paid off yet?
Clasen: We proved you could build an on-demand future and make it work. We now need to expand our distribution options. Comcast’s VOD model proves people want this option, and we’re happy to offer it. CW: Will the cable industry go through more consolidation?
Clasen: I have no sense that there is a lot of consolidation on the horizon. I see MSOs, especially the ones that have been weak in the recent past, getting stronger. Adelphia expects to be out of bankruptcy this summer. Charter is getting things back on track. Short term, I’d predict that they’re going to turn the corner and do well going forward. We have good relationships with all our affiliates, so I don’t think consolidation would hurt us at all. CW: Have things truly settled down with Comcast?
Clasen: They are rolling out products, and we’re getting ready to roll out a national campaign with them in the spring. Meanwhile, we have several regional campaigns running simultaneously. We’re excited about our relationship with the nation’s largest MSO. CW: Have you modified your high-definition plans?
Clasen: High resolution is on the back burner, and Sharper Movies has been set aside for the time being. Encore HD will launch in the second quarter. And the Voom deal will make that service available as well. Operators clearly didn’t want the high-res product. We were offering them an alternative to better manage their bandwidth. But the decision to go full HD has been made de facto. CW: What was the last movie you saw on TV?
Clasen: It was the enhanced version of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and I watched it on Starz. CW: Do you like living in Colorado?
Clasen: We love it here. And our dog loves it, too. Our neighborhood is very pet friendly. You can’t walk down the street in Cherry Creek without almost every store having a dog bowl full of water or dog treats out front.

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Comcast Revamps Latino Programming Packages

Comcast is changing up its Latino video packages, nixing its assortment of different plans for a single package called “Xfinity TV Latino.”

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