August 11, 2009

Hollywood Films Headed Online

Executives behind EpixHD.com, a soon-to-launch video website, believe its success will be hinged upon its movies, concerts, and original programming.

The site, which is a cross between YouTube and Hulu, features crystal clear video and doesn't require any special software.

"The critical linchpin to what we've got is that we have one-third of the box office of Hollywood," said Epix Chief Digital Officer Emil Rensing.

Epix's parent companies, Viacom Inc's Paramount film studio, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp and MGM, hope to compete with Time Warner Inc's HBO and CBS Corp's Showtime in the premium movie network business.

The epixHD.com website will feature a vast collection of full-length movies and original programming to its subscribers.

According to Rensing, a former executive with Time Warner's AOL, said his aim with epixHD.com was to make a site that is "all about being easy to use."

In addition to being able to watch movies like Paramount's "Iron Man," users can also have access to trailers, facts about the film, cast listing, and a plot synopsis.

The website could eventually offer more features, Rensing told Reuters.

"Let's give something to the fans that gets them really excited," said Rensing. "We're asking (the studios) for some of the weird stuff. We'd like to go to sets on tear down days, talk to the teamsters about the crazy stuff that happened."

EpixHD.com is currently building its library of films from parent studios.

The website will feature a virtual wall of films that viewers can click on to view.  Once clicked, the movie will open up against a traditional red movie theater curtain.

"My job is not to convince people to watch movies on the Internet. I already know they are doing that. What's my job? My job is to make it as easy and fun as possible to watch the stuff that I have access to," said Rensing.

"We're not a tech company, we're a media company," he said when asked how epixHD.com would differ from sites like Hulu and YouTube.

"I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. Hulu's got a great player. I'm going to take a couple things from Hulu. YouTube's got a couple cool features. I'm going to take them," he added.

Rensing also pointed to the epixHD.com sharing function which allows Epix subscribers to invite up to four friends to watch a movie from their own computers online, at no charge.

The friends can also instant message each other during the movie through a chat function in the player.

"Hey, when you come to my house and we're going to sit down and watch the 'Sopranos' and you don't have HBO do I charge you a dollar and stick it in my cable bill?" he said.


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