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Chris Albrecht tapped as CEO of Liberty Media's Starz

December 22, 2009 |  7:43 am

Chris Albrecht, the programmer and executive who took HBO to new heights before an arrest forced his exit, has been named president and chief executive of Liberty Media's pay cable and movie unit, Starz.

ALBRECHT In his new role, which was announced early this morning, Albrecht will be charged with trying to make Starz more competitive with HBO and Showtime. The pay channel, which is part of John Malone's media empire, has been trying for years to make inroads in that arena and has had some mild success with its drama "Crash," based on the Oscar-winning movie.

Albrecht's move to Starz is not a complete shock. He had been developing a drama about the fashion world for the company already, Variety had reported (registration required).

"Chris is a recognized visionary in the creative community and uniquely qualified to lead Starz into the future," said Liberty Media President and Chief Executive Greg Maffei, to whom Albrecht will report.

Albrecht is succeeding longtime Starz chief Bob Clasen, who announced his retirement earlier this year. In a statement, Albrecht said he has always seen Starz as a "bold, entrepreneurial and growth-oriented brand." Besides Starz, Albrecht will also oversee Overture Films, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Film Roman.

Albrecht spent about 20 years at HBO and played a key role in the cable network's transformation from a theatrical-movie channel to a place for groundbreaking original programming, including "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City." He was gone from HBO in 2007, soon after his arrest on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend, which led to disclosures of other questionable incidents during his time at the network.

Industry analyst Rich Greenfied of Pali Research warned in a report on Albrecht's hiring (registration required) that while original programming may be the best long-term approach for Starz, it does mean costs will go up.

News of Albrecht's appointment was first reported late Monday evening by Deadline Hollywood.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Chris Albrecht. Credit: HBO