Epix ready for more distribution deals
* Epix reaches exclusive deal with Samuel Goldwyn Films
* Goldwyn to provide up to 20 films across all platforms
* Epix sees additional distribution deals soon
(Updates to add movie titles)
By Sue Zeidler and Paul Thomasch LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK, Aug 6 (Reuters) - New movie channel Epix added more content on Thursday via a pact with Samuel Goldwyn Films and its top executive said the company is making progress in expanding distribution beyond a recent deal with Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N).
"We're talking to everyone. Some are further along than others. We're in very serious discussions," Epix Chief Executive Mark Greenberg told Reuters in an interview.
Epix, owned by Viacom Inc's VIAb.N Paramount film studio, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp (LGF.N) and MGM, is looking to compete with Time Warner Inc's (TWX.N) HBO and CBS Corp's (CBS.N) Showtime in the premium movie channel business.
It is home to some 15,000 films, including some of Hollywood's biggest titles, including hits such as "Iron Man" and "Star Trek" and James Bond movies.
But analysts believe that to make an impact it needs to be carried by a major cable or satellite company -- beyond Verizon's FiOS, which has a limited base of TV subscribers.
Greenberg expected the company to announce additional distribution deals before and after the premium movie channel launches in early October. He declined to name which companies Epix was talking with. Greenberg also expected more content deals, such as the one struck on Thursday.
Under that deal, Epix will carry 20 films from independently owned Goldwyn to bolster its line-up of studio content across all of its platforms, which include a cable channel, video on demand and Internet-only services at epixhd.com.
Greenberg said the company's cable channel will launch in October, but its web and video-on-demand services will likely launch sometime before that.
In addition to movies, Epix plans to run some original TV series and music and comedy concerts.
Greenberg said Epix was also exploring opportunities to provide features such as deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes footage from movies, capitalizing on its unique relationship with its member studios' franchises.
He said Epix will air movies about nine months after they first appear in theaters, which is earlier than studios traditionally release films to premium channels such as HBO.
He said pricing was ultimately up to the cable and satellite operators who will carry Epix services, but thinks it should not appear as a separate charge on customers' bills as many premium services usually are.
"We have a position on how we think we should be priced, but the programmers are the arbiters of pricing," he said.
Jack MacKenzie, industry consultant with media research firm Frank N Magid, said that while the television landscape seems crowded with movie offerings, Epix could succeed if it helped cable companies beef up video-on-demand offerings.
"I don't know what kind of stomach that Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and DirecTv Group Inc (DTV.O) and other major distributors have for programming like this, although it might interesting and important to cable to the extent of video- on-demand services.
"Its content might prove a meaningful carrot to their relationships," he added.
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