Last month, Viacom (NYSE: VIA) CEO Phillipe Dauman confidently said he expected new premium network Epix to add more distribution partners before its fall launch but the Oct. 30 launch date announced this week still has only one launch partner: Verizon (NYSE: VZ) FiOS. The joint venture of Viacom, Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate is scrambling to change the picture for its would-be competitor to HBO, Showtime and Starz. A source familiar with the situation tells paidContent that financial terms have been reached with one distributor — not a cable operator or AT&T (NYSE: T) U-Verse, which leaves DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) or Dish — and that hopes are it can be signed for an announcement in tandem with the launch. Another deal, which would be the network’s first with a cable operator, is still stuck on the financials and isn’t a good bet to be finalized before the launch.
It helps Epix to have Verizon on board but the telecom’s service itself has limited reach. Also, Verizon has yet to sign up for the Epix Megaplex, an ambitious planned 3,000-title streaming movie service that only will be available as an adjunct to the network. The more basic Epix broadband service started in beta this spring; it, too, will only be available through video distributors to subscribers of the video channel. Verizon claimed 2.5 million FiOS TV customers as of June 30, which gives you a sense of how small the pool is for potential Epix subscribers. The latest Verizon fact sheet says the fiber-optic TV service is available in only 14 states.
That also means a small group of potential viewers for the launch weekend line up of Iron Man, Madonna Sticky & Sweet: Live from Buenos Aires, and Eddie Izzard: Live From Wembley.