Epix, the joint venture movie service from Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate, snagged its first affiliate pact, landing a multiplatform rollout with Verizon Communications' FiOS TV.
The deal will place Epix, which offers unedited, commercial-free films, on FiOS's TV lineup as both a standard- and high-definition channel, via FiOS Internet, as well as through delivery on wireless devices and on the telco's on-demand platform.
The parties have not disclosed a firm launch date, other than to say it will be in early October. It was also unclear as to exactly where the network will be positioned. Epix president Mark Greenberg, who would not discuss license fees, said FiOS was working through the distribution channels, noting the “best incentive” calls for the service to be located on a widely penetrated digital tier. Verizon officials said it had not yet decided on channel positioning.
Verizon customers, though, in September will begin receiving on-demand and online access to directors' script notes, outtakes, auditions and other unique extras, said Greenberg.
Epix's lineup includes Paramount's release of Lucasfilm's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Marvel's Iron Man and MGM's Pink Panther 2.
The venture will showcase dozens of recent releases from Paramount, Paramount Vantage, MGM, United Artists and Lionsgate, along with thousands of classic films.
Epix was born after the three studios could not come to terms in 2008 with Showtime, which wants to increase its investments in original-series production.
Epix will launch into a category in which premium services HBO, Starz and Showtime tread heavily with theatricals, as do AMC, FX, TNT and USA Network, among others on the basic-cable side.
As such, many have expected Epix, which originally was positioned as a premium service, to have difficulty securing significant distribution coming out of the gate.
Comcast and Cablevision Systems have said they are not interested in the service. But Greenberg said Epix is in “very meaningful discussions” with a number of major distributors. “Some take the lead, others want to watch,” he said. “We're very confident that we'll have other deals by the end of the year, between now and then.”
Greenberg said Epix, which has been in broadband beta-testing since May, would provide a point of differentiation through local tagging of online fare. Moreover, viewers can share thoughts in a “screening room” via messaging.
The content is authenticated and highly encoded and “never more than two clicks away,” he said, adding that Epix modulates the resolution. Presentation is dynamically adjusted for the different platforms.
Greenberg noted that while sports is a well-stocked category within the HD arena, opportunities exist within the enhanced premium-movie sector.