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One of Berkshire's two new positions last quarter was
STRZA). Buffett & Co. picked up 5.62 million shares of the media and entertainment company, a $129 million stake that amounts to more than 4.6% of Starz's outstanding shares. The new position came onto Berkshire's portfolio thanks to the firm's spin-off from
Liberty Media (
LMCA) back in January; it's the fund managers' decision to keep Starz that's telling.
Starz was originally launched as a premium cable channel, broadcasting feature films and a smaller set of original TV series. Today, the firm's umbrella also includes the Encore and MoviePlex brands, with 17 cable channels of various flavors in all. The biggest feather in Starz's cap is its ability to secure home distribution agreements with content producers. Those agreements ensure that substantial content flows to the 57 million combined subscribers who pay monthly fees to receive the channel.
Original content creation offers some big opportunities for STRZA -- if the company can pull it off correctly. Series such as
Da Vinci's Demons have been well-received by viewers, but they still lag significantly behind the original content put out by rivals like HBO and Showtime. With the largest pay-TV subscriber base in the country, Starz has the audience in place already; it just needs to push its content harder to increase the stickiness of that subscriber base.
Growth has been somewhat slow at Starz in recent years, and Berkshire's focus on cash-generating investments makes STRZA an interesting hold for the firm. It'll be worth keeping an eye on how this position gets managed.
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