Is the move of Epix’s streaming rights to Hulu from Netflix a victory for everyone? Perhaps, with a big “if” in the equation: Epix wins if the change leads Comcast and possibly other pay TV distributors to finally agree to carry the premium channel co-owned by Lionsgate, Viacom, and MGM.
Comcast, DirecTV and Cablevision don’t offer Epix, which has about 10.3 million subscribers, largely because its movies are also available elsewhere. In addition to Netflix, since 2012 Epix also streamed on Amazon Prime Instant Video, and it recently became an option for Dish Network’s Sling TV.
Pay TV providers also increasingly see Netflix as a threat: The $7.99 a month service emboldens cable subscribers to cut the cord — and it vigorously opposed Comcast’s aborted effort to buy Time Warner Cable.
You might think that Hulu would present the same non-exclusivity problem for pay TV — but it doesn’t. It’s much smaller than Netflix. And it’s co-owned by Fox, Disney, and Comcast. That should “lead to a greater possibility that Comcast will add” Epix to its line up of premium channels, Stifel’s Benjamin Mogil says.
If Comcast doesn’t, then Epix may end up collecting less for its streaming rights.
Netflix is believed to have paid Epix $120 million a year for the right to stream its films including Hunger Games: Catching Fire and World War Z beginning 90 days after they first appear on the cable channel. Considering that Hulu has about 14 million subscribers, vs. about 42 million for Netflix in the U.S. “we do not believe that the Hulu license fee is anywhere near ” what Netflix paid, Mogil says.
Meanwhile, the arrangement “makes Hulu stronger in movies (an historically weaker area for this TV-focused service), raising the prospect of greater competition to Netflix,” says FBR & Co’s Barton Crockett. It recently reached TV carriage deals with FX Networks and AMC Networks.
And Netflix seems to be fine, even though it will lose several popular films. “Our goal is to provide great movies and TV series for all tastes, that are only available on Netflix,” Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said yesterday in a blog post. To that end, it has deals to offer movies from Disney (beginning late next year), DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures, and Universal and is producing original fare with Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Angelina Jolie, Judd Appatow, and Ricky Gervais.