Starz Renews SPARTACUS, Hires HBO’s Chris Albrecht as New CEO

     December 22, 2009

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Yesterday, The Live Feed reported that Starz is ordering a second season of its new original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand before even one episode of the show has aired. The show is a look at the world of gladiators in ancient Rome, said to be in the graphic style of 300. It stars Andy Whitfield, Lucy Lawless, John Hannah, and Peter Mensah, and counts Sam Raimi among its producers.

Now Deadline reports that Starz has recruited Chris Albrecht to be its new president and CEO. Albrecht used to be the chairman and CEO of HBO until he resigned in 2007 at the request of the company due to an assault charge. It is under Albrecht’s guide that HBO staked its substantial claim in original programming with such acclaimed series as The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Wire. For more on what these moves mean for the future of Starz, hit the jump.

Spartacus image Starz Andy Whitfield (1).jpgParticularly after The Sopranos premiered, HBO dominated original programming on pay cable networks. To some extent it still does, based largely on the runaway success of True Blood, but Showtime has been gaining ground both in viewers and acclaim with Weeds, Californication, Nurse Jackie, The United States of Tara, and the network’s flagship show, Dexter. With its recent season finale, Dexter attracted 2.6 million viewers and became the most watched programming on Showtime in more over a decade.

With the early renewal of Spartacus and the hiring of Albrecht, Starz is showing its interest in getting in on the original programming racket in a big way. The network faltered a bit last year with the high profile Crash, a television remake of the Paul Haggis movie, starring Dennis Hopper. The show has two seasons under its belt, but premiered to tepid reviews. Critics were much kinder to the network’s comedic effort Party Down. The show, which chronicles the misadventures of a down-on-their luck catering crew, was created by Veronica Mars‘s Rob Marshall and features a stellar cast including Adam Scott, Lizzy Kaplan, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, Martin Starr, and Jane Lynch. Still, despite all its greatness, Party Down has a regrettably small following.

If Spartacus capitalizes on the 300 fandom correctly, then Starz could attract valuable new eyeballs in the immediate future. Check out the trailer below to see if you’ll be one of them. Otherwise, Albrecht may be just the man to choose the programming that will make the network a legitimate destination on the pay cable landscape for quality original series.

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