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Lionsgate shoots for the Starz with Spanish Princess

Two high-profile Starz offerings and an OWN drama highlight Lionsgate’s slate, which will be screened in London’s Soho Hotel this afternoon. The company is  benefiting from the trailblazing success of prior dramas such as The White Princess

US studio Lionsgate is quickly becoming a staple in the UK Screenings circuit and has three high-profile dramas on offer for buyers this year – two of them originating from the studio’s network Starz and another from US cable channel OWN.

Eight-part drama The Spanish Princess is based on Philippa Gregory’s novels The Constant Princess and The King’s Curse and follows teenaged princess Catherine of Aragon who was promised the English throne as a child but must fight for her rightful place upon arriving in England.

“It’s a powerful story set in 16th-century London about the royal court intrigue that is uniquely told through the perspectives of women,” explains Agapy Kapouranis, the newly appointed president of international television and digital distribution who took over from Peter Iacono in October.

The drama – which follows in the vein of Starz hits The White Queen and The White Princess but is not a sequel – has been hotly anticipated by a number of buyers who have picked up the prior series via output deals. “So many people want to license this story,” explains Kapouranis.

Also on the slate from Starz is The Rook, Lionsgate and Liberty Global’s UK-shot paranormal thriller about a woman who wakes up in a park with complete amnesia, unable to remember her background or identity, but who must play the part of the person she inhabits to uncover who she really is.

“Clients have been asking about The Rook because it’s an international story. It will launch on Starz and Liberty Global’s international footprints, but we still have some markets open, with interest from major clients.”

Rounding out the trifecta of programmes is OWN’s Atlanta-set thriller Ambitions, which stars Robin Givens as a high-powered lawyer fighting for control of her family’s law firm while dealing with a turbulent domestic life.

Lionsgate’s presentation to buyers comes at a juncture that sees the studio ramping up its own SVOD capabilities via Starzplay, which is available on Amazon Prime Video Channels in the UK and Germany, as well as in Canada under the Starz brand. Lionsgate also plans to launch the platform across France, Italy and Spain.

However, Kapouranis says the studio is able to carefully balance its own SVOD ambitions with those of third-party outlets.

“How we differentiate ourselves from everyone else launching platforms is that Lionsgate owns Starz and we work together very closely, which is incredible because I think that’s different from the bigger studios,” says the exec.

“I tell all of our clients that we want to support them in launching with the best content they can in whatever market they are targeting. And given the breadth of content we have at Lionsgate, we have been able to balance licensing content to Starzplay while licensing content to our clients all over the world.”

According to Kapouranis, the business is in “lockstep” in how it is supporting its Starz investment while continuing to build a “thriving global distribution business”.