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EPIX Targets HBO, Showtime With Offline Access

By Tim Beyers - Sep 18, 2015 at 6:02PM

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As the content wars escalate, studio partners Lions Gate, MGM, and Paramount Pictures give EPIX subscribers more control over content.

Streaming TV providers are trying hard to win your attention.

Last month, HBO Now landed on Fire TV and the Fire Stick. Showtime Anytime is available at a discount for those who buy a subscription to Hulu. Now EPIX wants to top them all by allowing viewers to download content to be watched later, even when offline.

The initial library includes films from The Hunger Games, James Bond, and Star Trek franchises and TV series starring well-known comedians such as Louis CK. Anyone with a subscription and the EPIX app will be able to download this programming and more when the upgraded service goes live later this month. Compatible devices include the Kindle Fire and all iOS and Android mobile devices and tablets. 

"The EPIX goal has always been to provide our subscribers with next level enhancements, elevating how they can access content across devices," said Mark Greenberg, EPIX president and CEO, in a press release announcing offline access. 

Interestingly, the news comes just weeks after EPIX announced a multi-year deal with Hulu to replace the one it had with Netflix (NFLX 3.55%). At the time, Hulu Senior Vice President Craig Erwich described it as a "landmark deal" that would represent a "huge expansion" of the network's premium programming. But even Hulu members will have to subscribe to EPIX to get their content offline.

How more access equals more revenue
EPIX isn't widely known by most investors. Nor should it be. Like Hulu, the pay channel is owned by a consortium of partners: Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF-A -1.41%), MGM Studios, and Viacom's (VIAB) Paramount Pictures. Think of it as a simple mechanism for each studio to syndicate its content in hopes of boosting home video and merchandise sales.

The move puts pressure on premium rivals HBO and Showtime to do even more to untether content delivery from the cable box or a streaming alternative such as a Roku player. For its part, EPIX says it is the only network that provides "all its programming on all platforms."

In this case, "all platforms" means anything with a screen. Getting other cable providers to carry EPIX as part of their premium offerings is another matter, and bundling downloadable programming could help with the recruiting effort. Don't be surprised if up-and-coming operators such as AMC Networks take a similar approach with their own lineups.

After all, more broadcast deals should mean higher retransmission fees and more profit for those funding the programming -- Lions Gate, MGM, and Viacom's Paramount in the case of EPIX. For investors, that makes this is a story worth tuning into.

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