EpixHD.com may well be one of the best online movie services most people will never see– and by mid-2010, it plans to offer at least 3,000 films. But you can’t subscribe to it directly or pay per view: EpixHD is the broadband version of new premium pay network Epix, with access limited only to multichannel video subscribers whose operator offers the net. Right now, that’s a small universe of one: Verizon (NYSE: VZ) FiOS. That’s right — the high-profile JV from Viacom (NYSE: VIA), Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate so far has only one public taker for the network that is supposed to be a Showtime-HBO-Starz competitor stocked with exclusive films from those studios. Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said last week that more announcements are due as the network heads to its October launch.
Epix hopes to gig operator and consumer interest with its newest offering: the Epix Megaplex, making at least 3,000 titles available for on-demand streaming by mid-2010. Emil Rensing, the network’s chief digital officer, told paidContent it’s a version of Epix “a handful” of potential distributors asked for: “A much, much wider, much, much deeper streaming movies library” than Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX).
Verizon hasn’t signed on for this version yet. Many of the films are being converted from analog to digital, and some films that are already digital are being re-encoded for higher quality. But expanding to 3,000-plus by next June sounds like a tall order given that Epix only has about 200 titles for the rotation now with plans to hit 500 by year’s end.
The current broadband service, which started private beta in late spring, is meant to directly complement the Epix channel by making available for on-demand streaming the same movies that are programmed for television that month. It helps, says Rensing, that “from day one, I can make every piece of programming I’ve got available online.” Through the JV, Epix has the rights to thousands of movies from new releases to classics across any outlet. As various studio deals with Showtime and others wind down, the number increases.
Unlike the other premium movie channels, says Rensing, “We don