Lionsgate May Change Netflix Deal Terms

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer touted upstart pay cable channel and broadband service EPIX and implied that the company is open to tweaking its groundbreaking but controversial distribution deal with Netflix. Now 2 1/2 years after it was announced, EPIX (the partnership of Lionsgate, Viacom and MGM) is available in some 30 million homes but has yet to land carriage deals with top cable operators Comcast and Time Warner Cable as well as DirecTV. But during his keynote speech this afternoon at the Mipcom TV market in Cannes, Feltheimer stressed that “EPIX is working” and that “it has achieved one of the fastest accelerations from startup to profitability of any channel in history — profitable after only 10 months of operation”.

He called EPIX’s recent deal with Netflix an example of capitalizing on “our opportunity to layer our traditional partners with new partners,… establish more flexible pricing and ultimately create a win/win scenario for all.” The pact, which allows Netflix to carve out a new window for streaming movies 90 days after they debut on traditional premium pay television, has raised eyebrows among traditional distributors like Time Warner Cable which has said such an agreement makes EPIX less attractive. Feltheimer suggested the length of the window can be negotiated. “There’s nothing sacrosanct about the 90 days,” he said.

During his speech, Feltheimer poked fun at the company’s prolonged ownership battle with Carl Icahn (“Believe it or not, one of my toughest critics is here in the audience today. No, I’m not talking about Carl.”) And he also broke some news, announcing that the company has set up a series project at Fox. Stanley Park, from creator Leo Richardson, is an adaptation of a pilot the company did in the UK for the BBC where its fate is still in limbo. After focusing on cable for the past several years with series like Mad Men, Weeds and Nurse Jackie, Lionsgate TV became a broadcast player last spring when it took over production of the Fox comedy pilot Running Wilde.

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