The companies finally put a date on the agreement made in December for the No. 2 cable operator to offer the premium service which has been struggling to expand its distribution. Time Warner Cable will help to generate some buzz by offering its digital video customers a three-month free trial of Epix, Epix 2, Epix 3, and Epix Drive-in. Epix will be available in standard and high definition, while Epix Drive-In will be only in SD. In addition to the linear channels, TWC will offer Epix programming on VOD and will stream content to the service’s app. “This is yet another way of showing that we appreciate our customers’ loyalty and are consistently working hard to provide even more value to their service,” says TWC’s Jeffrey Hirsch. The cable company is eager to slow, and possibly reverse, the decline in its video subscriptions. Meanwhile Epix — owned by Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM — sees the deal as an opportunity to build momentum for additional deals, possibly including with Comcast, which plans to buy TWC, and DirecTV.
With mere days to go before their latest deal expired, Time Warner Cable and Viacom announced a new carriage agreement today. Among keeping the Viacom channels on for New Year’s, the near last minute multi-year deal adds premiere cabler EPIX to the TWC lineup for the first time. “Our new agreement offers consumers a comprehensive collection of innovations across platforms, including the availability of EPIX and access to Viacom’s vast array of popular content within the Television Everywhere environment both in and out of their homes,”said Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman in a statement Tuesday. Specifics of the new agreement were not disclosed, but you can read the release here:
The premium video service is performing well financially and is “going to start looking at original series,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts this morning. Co-owned by his company, Viacom, and MGM, “we’re capable of creating some cool original content.” And it should help EPIX as it negotiates carriage deals with cable and satellite companies. “One or two great scripted shows can drive an entire channel or network, so they’d consider it a plus for us.” Indeed, Feltheimer says, execs are engaged in “pretty significant conversations with [pay TV distributors] who look at EPIX as a channel that they can use in a smart way” as they craft streaming TV Everywhere packages. “We’ve got a fantastic theatrical line-up” that includes “a lot of original stuff, but not scripted.”
Epix has lined up original documentary Amar’e Stoudemire: In The Moment, an intimate look at the life and upbringing of basketball great Amar’e Stoudemire and his quest to bring a championship to New York before he finishes his career. It will premiere April 19, on the eve of the NBA playoffs. Amar’e Stoudemire: In The Moment joins seven new documentaries premiering in Epix Docs, a weekly showcase airing Wednesdays at 8 PM ET. Here is a full list:
We still don’t have a firm start date, although the joint venture between Redbox and Verizon says that consumers will be able to subscribe to a “beta product” sometime this month. Redbox Instant by Verizon‘s streaming service will cost a penny more than Netflix and will include four, one-night credits each month to rent DVDs at Redbox kiosks. For an additional dollar a month, customers can use the credits to rent Blu-ray discs. We still know little about the streaming content — Warner Bros is the only studio that has publicly said it will participate. But Redbox Instant says its new deal with EPIX will enable it to offer Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM movies 90 days after they appear on EPIX’s pay TV channel. The venture also will sell and rent digital versions of new movies from Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Relativity and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The web-based service will work with mobile devices powered by iOS and Android operating systems as well as Samsung Blu-ray Players and TVs with SmartHub, LG Smart TV and Blu-ray Players, and Google TV. Here’s today’s release:
Netflix shares have settled to about $55.88, -6.4%, in early afternoon trading following the announcement that Amazon Prime will double its video offerings with a new agreement to stream movies from EPIX. But analysts say Netflix faces a difficult stretch as a rival service begins to offer content that Netflix had exclusively in the online universe for the last two years. The new agreement “puts a significant dent” into some investors’ hope that Amazon would buy Netflix, Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible says. EPIX is expensive and Amazon “would not likely want to pay twice for the same content.” He adds that the competition from Amazon could hurt because about half of Netflix customers subscribe to watch movies.
The arrangement more than doubles Amazon Prime Instant Video’s offerings, and knocks some of the wind out of its chief competitor: Netflix. The streaming video company’s shares were down about 10% shortly after the market opened this morning. Epix’ new agreement with Amazon comes just days after the premium movie service’s exclusivity arrangement with Netflix expired. Films from Epix — backed by Paramount, MGM, and Lionsgate — will now appear on Amazon and Netflix about 90 days after they run on traditional pay TV. Epix’ announcement also comes just before Amazon’s press conference on Thursday where it’s expected to unveil a new line of Kindle Fire tablets — possibly including a model with an 8.9-inch screen that could compete more directly with Apple’s iPad. “We think customers will really enjoy watching new titles like The Avengers, Iron Man 2 and The Hunger Games on their Kindle Fire, PlayStation 3, Xbox, iPad or any of the other of the Amazon Instant Video compatible devices,” says Amazon VP Bill Carr. Epix CEO Mark Greenberg calls the deal “a great line extension” for Amazon. He adds that with the expiration of the exclusivity arrangement with Netflix, part of the distribution deal they cut two years ago, Epix is talking with other potential distributors.
Here’s the release:
DirecTV’s 20M customers have their MTV – and 16 other Viacom channels – again. The companies said this morning that they’ve resolved their 10-day contract dispute, which took more channels from more consumers than any other fight so far between a pay TV distributor and programmer. That will come as a relief to DirecTV customers who are fans of channels including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET and Spike. Investors also will be glad to see an end to what many feared could have become an extended black out that might trash both companies’ earnings. In addition, Hollywood moguls will be pleased: Several have told our Nikki Finke that they’ve found it hard to promote movies while Viacom’s youth-oriented channels have been dark in so many homes.
Negotiators spend just “10 minutes a day talking” about substantive matters says Denise Denson, Viacom Media Networks’ EVP for Content Distribution and Marketing. “I don’t see it ending any time soon.” Viacom’s 17 channels went dark for DirecTV’s 20M customers early last week. Afterward Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman offered a compromise proposal to DirecTV CEO Michael White while they were both at the Allen & Co confab in Sun Valley. “Philippe hasn’t heard personally back from Mike since,” Denson says. In her view DirecTV is dragging things out because “in the short term the programmer does feel the pressure from the loss of subscribers.” The satellite company was “bullied into this by their investors” and wants to send a signal to other programmers not to ask for big price increases. But she says that DirecTV is being disingenuous with its subscribers by urging them to hang on in the hope that a resolution could come soon. “It’s completely misleading,” she says. “It is unfair to the consumer that they don’t have the facts.” If they did, and switched to a rival pay TV provider, then “it would be very difficult for DirecTV in the long run.”
Premium TV network/on-demand service EPIX, which has been running comedy specials since its 2009 launch, is now setting up a new monthly comedy showcase. Titled EPIX Comedy Unbound, the franchise will kick off with Jim Norton: Please Be Offended on June 30 and will air the last weekend of every month. It will feature comedians who have done specials for EPIX before, like Lewis Black and Kevin Smith, as well as Jim Jefferies, Sherri Shepherd, and Eddie Griffin, among others. The showcase also will carry the annual All-Star Comedy Roundtable presented by Ben Stiller featuring Chris Rock and Jim Carrey and moderated by Bill Hader, taped live at the 2012 Nantucket Film Festival. “We are deepening our commitment to comedy by featuring the best of today’s stand-up comedians in our showcase and giving them free reign to push the envelope and bring our viewers uncensored comedy the way it was meant to be seen,” said Mark Greenberg, CEO and President of EPIX. Here are the first specials to run as part of EPIX Comedy Unbound:
Cannes Roundup: Robert Altman Doc, Universal-Screen Corp, Schwarzenegger, ‘Squatters’, ‘Me And Mrs. Jones’
Robert Altman Documentary
Sphinx Productions, the premium cable service Epix, Astral’s The Movie Network, Submarine Entertainment and Dakota Group Ltd. are partnering on Altman, a feature documentary about the late Robert Altman to be directed and produced by filmmaker Ron Mann. Altman will feature interviews with actors, his collaborators and family members, along with archival footage of Altman himself and clips from his groundbreaking films that include MASH, McCabe And Mrs. Miller, A Wedding, Nashville, The Long Goodbye, The Player, Short Cuts, Gosford Park and A Prairie Home Companion among many others. Consultants include Altman’s widow Kathryn Reed Altman and producer Matthew Seig. Submarine Entertainment will be presenting the project to buyers at the 2012 Cannes Film Market. Completion slated mid-2013.
Arnold Schwarzenegger In ‘Ten’
Canadian distributor VVS Films has acquired the thriller Ten starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by David Ayer. Deal was negotiated between Ernie and Harry Grivakis of VVS Films and Bill Block and John Friedberg of QED. In addition to Ten, VVS Films’ slate includes Ayer’s End Of Watch with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña; Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage with Richard Gere, Tim Roth and Susan Sarandon; William Friedkin’s Killer Joe with Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple; Gabriele Muccino’s Playing The Field with Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel and Catherine Zeta Jones; John Luessenhop’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D; and Nicolas Lopez’ Aftershock with Eli Roth and Selena Gomez.
Universal International-Screen Corp Deal
A first-look distribution deal covering Australasia between James M. Vernon’s Screen Corp and Universal Pictures International Australia may signal an upswing in production from the veteran producer who has enlisted two experienced executives, former Warner Bros. International President Wayne Duband and Alan Finney, former chief of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Australia, to serve on his project assessment committee. The deal gives UPI Australia the option to acquire an unspecified number of films per year, budgeted at between $A5M-$45M, providing P&A financing and at times, minimum guarantees.
This deal does not interfere with Lionsgate’s commitment to Epix, where the company is a founding partner. It gives Starz first pay library window on Lionsgate movies after Epix.
Santa Monica, Calif. and Englewood, Colo. – February 2, 2012 – Lionsgate® (NYSE: LGF), a leading diversified global entertainment company, and Starz Entertainment, LLC, a leading premium pay TV company operating 17 premium movie channels in the United States, today announced a new multiyear film licensing agreement that will bring more than 500 Lionsgate movies to the Starz Entertainment premium channels and services.
The comprehensive new agreement is Lionsgate’s first long-term library deal with Starz Entertainment and will provide a significant supply of quality movie programming across all platforms for the STARZ, ENCORE, and MOVIEPLEX premium channels, in addition to the related HD, On Demand, HD On Demand, and online advanced services.
Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns had to disappoint analysts who wanted him to open up about the big question of the day for his company: What’s going on with its reported merger talks with Summit Entertainment? “I’m not going to talk about any specific deal,” he said at the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference. He noted, though, that a consolidation of independent film and TV companies is “a natural thing to happen.” He assured the group that Lionsgate is only interested in deals that add to its value, and don’t require it to either issue stock or take on additional debt. “We’re looking to delever, not lever up,” he says.
With that out of the way, he spoke candidly about the company’s plans for next year where he says “you’ll see us steady state for the first time” cranking out about a dozen movies and about three new TV shows. He’s encouraged about a plan to develop a TV series for ABC based on The Lincoln Lawyer – and Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management. ”I’ve known Charlie a long, long time,” Burns said. “Our goal is to keep Charlie working, keep him healthy — and we have a great partner in FX.” Burns says that a series it’s developing for
Verizon Communications plans to launch a movie-and-TV streaming service that would compete with Netflix, cable TV systems and potentially Amazon, Reuters reported Tuesday. In a strategy that would make the service available to 85 million US households, Verizon is …