Epix on line, waits on platform deal

The forthcoming premium movie channel from Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate, Epix is launching on the web in May but has failed to find network carriage yet.

At a launch in Las Vegas the joint venture announced Epix, which is intended as a competitor to HBO and Showtime, will come online with a Web site in May, five months before it starts a TV channel. Customers will be able to subscribe to the site and watch films, but the long-term business model depends on distribution from cable and satellite companies.

Mark Greenberg, the chief executive of the joint venture, made no carriage announcements. "Those are coming," he said. Greenberg said that carriage talks were continuing, adding, "no one is throwing us out of the office."

Without distribution, Paramount, a unit of Viacom, is essentially operating without a pay-TV deal, one of the important revenue pillars for a movie studio. Showtime had paid Paramount more than $100 million to carry the studio's movies until the deal ended in 2007.

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