EXCLUSIVE: Epix’s retreat from original programming continues with the departure of Laverne McKinnon, EVP original programming and development. Epix — a joint venture of Viacom, Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate — made a statement that it was serious about originals when it hired industry veteran McKinnon, former head of drama development for CBS, 2 years ago to spearhead its efforts in the area. At the time, Epix had already greenlighted its first pilot, Nashville drama Tough Trade, and had several series and miniseries in development. That same fall, McKinnon made the rounds around town, laying out an ambitions scripted agenda for Epix, which included the launch of the channel’s first original scripted offering, likely a miniseries, in third-quarter 2010, followed by a rollout of a scripted program each quarter, alternating between minis and 13-episode series.
Epix continued to aggressively acquire documentaries and concert and comedy specials and became a pioneer in striking an early distribution pact with Netflix for features from the studios that co-own it. But Epix’s original efforts never took flight. And last October the company pulled the plug of Tough Trade, which was to be Epix’s first scripted series. At the time, Epix insisted that it was staying in the series business. Ten months later, no scripted projects have moved beyond development stage, and now I hear McKinnon is leaving. Still, word is that Epix is not releasing the scriptted projects — series and miniseries — it has in development and McKinnon’s team will continue to work on them, at least for the time being. It is uncler if she will be replaced.