Premium cable channel Epix has finally signed its first national distribution deal—to Dish Network's 14 million satellite TV customers. When Viacom's Paramount Pictures , Lionsgate and MGM launched their own cable channel, Hollywood wondered how it would compete with Showtime and HBO and whether it could gain traction.
With so much content available free online and on demand, will another premium cable channel lure subscribers? Now Epix has its first national deal, and will reach over 30 million homes by this May. The question now: will subscribers pay more for another movie channel?
Epix's origins go back to the split of CBS and Viacom. Without the corporate alliance Viacom's Paramount couldn't come to a new distribution agreement with CBS' Showtime. So Paramount got Lionsgate and MGM on board to launch a rival with their own content. The channel went live on Verizon's FIOS in October, and since then Epix has been in talks with all the major distriutors. It's gotten Cox, Charter, Mediacom and NCTC on board.
In its months without traditional mass distribution Epix developed a new on-demand online model. Subscribers to Epix through their cable provider could also access a wide range of HD movie content online, on www.EpixHD.com.
This is a strategy that Time Warner Cable, Comcast , and a number of the content providers have been experimenting with and slowly rolling out. Epix is an interesting test case-- as it enters new markets, will the instant availability of all that content online lure new subscribers?
Some other notable factors as Epix enters its next phase: two of its parent companies/content providers are in major flux. This announcement comes as Lionsgate fends off a takeover offer from Carl Icahn. And MGM has been negotiating with creditors to delay a bankruptcy that seems inevitable.
We'll see if any of these factors affect the channel's content deals moving forward.
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