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MGM HD Ink’s Carriage Pact With AT&T’s U-verse

11/09/2008 5:01 PM Eastern

MGM HD is marking its first anniversary by landing a carriage deal with AT&T’s U-verse service, and by picking up distribution on cable systems that have been carrying Mojo HD, which is going dark next month.

“The bandwidth became available and we went out there and basically raised our hands and said, ‘Take us,’” said Doug Lee, executive vice president of worldwide digital media for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. “We’ve got big movies on our service. It looked like a good HD replacement.”

With its new AT&T pact, MGM HD now has affiliation deals with all the major distributors, namely DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Bright House Networks, according to Lee.

Starting Monday, U-verse TV will offer MGM HD, which launched Oct. 10 last year, as part of the service’s HD premium package, a new tier that can be added to an HD subscription for an additional $5 a month. AT&T U-verse TV HD service is available for $10 a month with any U-verse programming package.

“It’s another nationwide distributor for us,” Lee said of MGM HD’s new U-verse agreement. “It’s a nationwide deal. As they grow, we’re going to be on an HD tier with them. So it’s not their full sub base.”

The AT&T deal follows on the heels of Verizon starting its rollout last month of MGM HD, which offers a library of classic and contemporary films in HD, 1080i.

Last month, AT&T announced that it was bolstering its HD basic offering, adding 30 new HD networks, taking it to more than 75 channels.

In addition to its new AT&T affiliation deal, MGM HD is seizing the opportunity presented by the demise of Mojo HD, the male-targeted service that is being shut down in December by In Demand Networks, which is owned by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications.

When MGM HD heard that Mojo was going to be shut down, its affiliate sales force approached Time Warner systems about getting the soon-to-be-defunct network’s slot, according to Lee. He expects MGM HD to pick up close to 1 million of Mojo HD’s former homes.

“A lot of Time Warner systems have the bandwidth to accommodate an earlier launch for us now,” Lee said. “In a lot of systems that were probably going to launch us next year, almost all those launches moved up to fourth quarter this year.”

Lee declined to comment on how many total subscribers MGM HD has now, but he claimed that the network is at twice its original projections. He’s also hopeful that Time Warner will launch MGM HD in New York City and Los Angeles by the end of the year.

MGM HD is still talking to cable operators it doesn’t have deals with, such as Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems and the National Cable Television Cooperative, according to Lee.

This year is the first CTAM conference that MGM HD is participating in, and it was set to co-host a screening of the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, this past Sunday in Boston. 

MGM is partners with Viacom’s Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate in a new premium network set to launch next fall. MGM and the joint venture partners, Studio 3 Partners, were co-sponsoring the Bond movie sneak peak at CTAM.

September