Starz was launched at 8:00 p.m.
Eastern Time on February 1, 1994, primarily on cable systems operated by
Tele-Communications Inc.; the first two movies aired on the network were dramas released in 1992: respectively,
Scent of a Woman
The Crying Game. The network was originally operated as a
joint venture between TCI and
Liberty Media (both companies were controlled by
John Malone), with TCI owning a 50.1% controlling interest in the channel.
Starz made its debut as the first phase of a seven-channel thematic
multiplex that was launched by Starz (then Encore Media Group) over the course of the succeeding eight months, with the remaining six channels being launched between July and September 1994.
 The multiplex was intended to only include six channels, however on May 31, 1993, Encore acquired the pay cable rights to telecast recent feature films from
Universal Pictures released after that year; as a result, TCI/Liberty decided to create an additional premium pay TV service to serve as a competitor to
 The network carried the moniker "Encore 8" in its on-air branding as part of a numbering system that was used by Encore's multiplex channels.
 Early trademark filings indicated that TCI/Liberty originally proposed names including "Applause" and "Stars" for the service (the "s" in the latter was ultimately changed to a "z" in the final naming).
Starz focused more on recent feature films, while Starz ENCORE (then Encore) focused on films released between the 1960s and the 1980s, before adding recent film fare itself in July 1999. It also held the television rights to releases from
Fine Line Features and its sibling studio
New Line Cinema, and the
Walt Disney Company–owned studios
Hollywood Pictures and
Miramax. Films from those studios were not carried on STARZ until 1997, after Disney's output agreement with Showtime for its non-family-oriented films concluded. The network restricted the scheduling of films that contained graphic sexual or violent content to late evening and overnight time periods.
Starz's availability was mainly limited to TCI's systems at launch, debuting with a one-month
free preview available to prospective subscribers; it would eventually sign its first major carriage agreement outside the TCI group, through a deal with Continental Cablevision in September 1995.
 In June 1997,
Comcast signed an agreement to carry the network on its
New Jersey systems to replace
PRISM after that network shut down that October following the loss of its (and sister network
SportsChannel Philadelphia's) sports programming to
Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.
 The network gained carriage deals with many other major U.S. cable and satellite providers by the early 2000s, particularly with the adoption of
digital cable, allowing for providers to add channels that they (even with capacity expansions of up to 60 channels) previously had limited room to carry. Starz was available to an estimated 2.8 million pay television subscribers by 1996, only one million of whom had subscribed to a cable or satellite provider other than TCI.
As a startup network, Starz endured major losses during its early years, with total deficits topping
US$203 million and annual losses of US$150 million by 1997. It was predicted to lose an additional US$300 million in revenue before it was predicted to break even.
 Partly in an effort to get the network's substantial losses off its books, TCI announced a deal on June 2, 1997, in which it transferred majority ownership of the corporate entity that operated Starz, Encore Media Group, to sister company Liberty Media; TCI retained a 20% minority ownership interest in Encore Media Group. Liberty Media assumed the former company's stake in the subsidiary in 1999, following TCI's merger with
Starz logo, used from April 7, 2008 to April 5, 2016.
By May 1998, Starz maintained a subscriber base reaching 7.6 million households with a cable or satellite television subscription.
 Encore Media Group was later renamed the Starz Encore Media Group in 2000.
As part of a corporate restructuring plan in 2003, Starz Encore Group eliminated 100 jobs in its nine regional offices, and closed four of the offices outright.
 On March 25, 2005, the Starz Encore Group corporate entity was renamed Starz Entertainment. On November 19, 2009, Liberty Media spun off Starz into a separate public
tracking stock called Liberty Starz.
On January 1, 2010,
Chris Albrecht joined Starz as its president and
chief executive officer, then overseeing all of the Starz entities including Starz Entertainment,
Anchor Bay Entertainment and
 On August 8, 2012, Liberty Media announced that it would spin off the Liberty Starz subsidiary into a separate publicly traded company.
 The spin-off of the subsidiary was completed on January 11, 2013, with Liberty Starz changing its name to Starz as a result.
On April 5, 2016, Starz was rebranded and added all the
Encore channels to its moniker, therefore increasing the Starz channel lineup to 14 Starz premium channels. Its main channel was rebranded Starz Encore and carries reruns of Starz Originals in addition to films.
On June 30, 2016,
Lionsgate agreed to acquire Starz Inc. for $4.4 billion in cash and stock.
On December 8, 2016, the merger between Lionsgate and Starz was completed.