Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer sure talks as though the company’s looking to create a TV channel around Tyler Perry — Tyler TV – even though he says he “can’t comment” on a report about it. He told analysts this morning that “we strongly support” the idea of bringing Perry to “exciting new platforms.” That could include a “not fully distributed (cable) channel that we could buy” or nesting Perry at “a channel we already have. … We have a lot of options if we choose to go down that path.” The New York Times says this morning that the company is considering rebranding its struggling TV Guide Network, buying a channel such as Gospel Broadcasting Network, or teaming with Comcast, which promised federal officials who approved its acquisition of NBCUniversal that it would beef up programming for minority audiences.
Also on the call, Lionsgate executives talked up their plans for The Hunger Games. The first film in what’s likely to be a four-film series completes principal photography on Labor Day weekend ahead of a March 2012 release. But the studio says it won’t release the second film until Thanksgiving 2013 because it wants to take advantage of the big holiday season audiences — and to give itself time to work on the script and marketing plans. The productions won’t necessarily be filmed back-to-back, although there’s a chance that the second and third installments will be.
On other matters, Feltheimer says that he wishes that more cable operators had picked up Epix — but he’s satisfied by the fact that it’s profitable. “We’re more or less ahead of where we thought we’d be.” The CEO also talked up opportunities to sell movies and TV shows to digital streaming companies such as Netflix. “The growth is taking place internationally as well as domestically,” he says — although he wouldn’t confirm a report that Lionsgate has a UK deal with Netflix. Many providers now want exclusive deals, but Feltheimer says the company wants to be sure that there’s competition. He added that “we want to keep the terms as short as possible.”
Lionsgate shares are up 2% in early trading after the company reported that it was profitable in the quarter that ended in June.