The new ‘premium’ film channel announced last April as a joint venture between Viacom (Paramount), MGM and Lionsgate now has a name and a launch date, but, interestingly, no traditional distribution. At least not yet.
Instead, the US-only ‘channel’, now named “Epix”, will debut online in May — five months before its planned TV launch in October — and will use a subscription-based rather than Pay-Per-View model. The initial film lineup will feature “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Iron Man”, and “Pink Panther 2”, along with other titles, including classic Bond movies, from the studios’ 15,000 strong combined libraries.
Distribution is King
As I said yesterday, in relation to Netflix’s impressive online strategy, distribution not just content is King. And it’s here that “Epix” will face an uphill battle.
While ad-supported Internet TV offerings that have premium content, I’m thinking in particular of Hulu, are resonating with viewers despite being largely tied to the PC only, if I was going to actually pay for such a service, and possibly ditch an equivalent cable TV channel subscription, I’d want to be able to access it on a range of devices, including mobile, set-top boxes or Internet-connected TVs, games consoles and DVD/Blu-ray players. That’s why the Netflix proposition is so impressive, and similarly, the UK-only BBC iPlayer, which is being rolled out on an increasing number of platforms, also stands out.
To that end, it has been rumored that Blockbuster might be joining the Viacom, MGM and Lionsgate joint venture. While the DVD rental store’s own online video service doesn’t have anything like the device support that Netflix does, earlier this month the company announced it was partnering with CinemaNow in order to leverage its exising existing ecosystem of supported devices, which includes portable media players, personal video recorders (PVRs), set-top boxes and Internet-connected television sets.