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Lionsgate Coy on Epix, Netflix Renewal

31 May, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix’s exclusive access to Epix movies ends in September and renewal talks between the streaming rental service and the pay-TV platform’s co-owners (Viacom/Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate) remain ongoing, according to Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer.

Speaking May 31 with analysts to discuss Lionsgate’s fiscal results, Feltheimer said it wasn’t appropriate to discuss the ongoing negotiations, adding, “We are very pleased with our relationship with Netflix right now.”

Since ending its movie license agreement with Starz Entertainment in February, Netflix has largely relied on Epix to offer box office feature films to supplement its predominant episodic TV fare. With Lionsgate’s box office success this year with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 and The Hunger Games, anticipation has been high among online chatter groups regarding availability of the movies (and The Avengers, which Disney distributes) to Netflix streaming (the latter two films not until 2013 or 2014 at the earliest).

Feltheimer said recent data of Netflix’s download traffic during peak Internet viewing times underscored the value of Epix movies — a worth he said other “deep pocketed’ subscription video-on-demand services have shown interest in as well.

“We’ll just have to see how that goes,” he said.

Speaking at an investor event May 30, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer with Netflix, downplayed the significance one content provider has on the streaming service’s movie offerings.

“We have been lining up movie deals with independent studios all along," he said. "Today, we have far more successful movies in the [pay-TV] window than we did this time last year with [the Starz agreement].”

Separately, Lionsgate said it will have its biggest-ever home entertainment release Aug. 18 when it bows the midnight launch of The Hunger Games. The studio will roll out the retail release with an integrated approach that includes physical, digital and social media, according to Feltheimer.

“We expect to recapture [via midnight retail launches] the excitement and fan frenzy of its theatrical debut,” he said.

Sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is set to begin production in September with a Nov. 22, 2013, theatrical release date.

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