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Movie channel to go live on Web before TV debut

A premium movie channel backed by a trio of studios is expected to debut as an on-demand Web site months before its traditional TV launch.

The consortium of MGM, Paramount Pictures, and Lions Gate announced Tuesday at the NATPE television conference in Las Vegas that its channel would be called Epix (pronounced like the plural of epic), and feature more than 15,000 movies from the three studios. The new channel is expected to launch as a subscription-only Web site in May that will stream its content on the Internet, five months before its planned TV launch in October.

The Epix movie channel is expected to launch with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," among others.

(Credit: Paramount Pictures)

The new channel, which is intended to compete with HBO and Showtime, will feature such hits as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Iron Man, and other movies from the studios' libraries. The channel is also expected to produce original programming and present live concert performances, as other premium channels do.

However, as Mark Greenberg, chief executive of the Studio 3 Networks joint venture told The Wall Street Journal, the Web streaming service is "not our primary business model."

The venture apparently formed last year after negotiations fell through with CBS' Showtime network. (CBS is the parent company of publisher CBS Interactive.) But perhaps most notable is the fact that the company has yet to land distribution deal with cable and satellite TV providers.

"Those are coming," The New York Times quoted Greenberg as saying at the conference.

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