Epix streaming-TV apps: Not epic
Premium movie channel Epix announced Wednesday that it would chase new viewers online by offering them ... trailers. Insert disappointed emoticon here.
If you're a cable TV subscriber in Los Angeles, you probably have no idea what Epix is, because it's not offered by Time Warner Cable. Or Comcast, DirecTV or AT&T. All told, the would-be competitor to HBO, Showtime and Starz is available to 30 million pay-TV subscribers, or about 1 in 4 TV households in the U.S.
Epix (a joint venture of Viacom, Paramount Pictures, MGM and Lionsgate) released applications Wednesday for "over 100 consumer electronic and mobile devices" that will enable its subscribers to watch Epix programming on those devices. The list includes Android-powered tablet computers, Samsung Internet-connected TVs and Roku set-top boxes, which bring video from the Internet to a television set. The tablet-computer app has appeal, but why would Epix subscribers (who get the channel and its on-demand counterpart on their pay-TV service) want to stream versions of the same movies to their TV sets?
The company's new TV and set-top-box apps would make a lot more sense if Epix allowed people who don't (or can't) get its pay-TV channel to buy subscriptions to the online feed. HBO and Showtime won't do that for fear of undermining the pay-TV operators who provide the vast bulk of their revenue. Unfortunately for Epix, it doesn't have nearly as much to worry about on that front. It hasn't persuaded the country's largest cable and satellite operators to carry it.
Nevertheless, Epix is eschewing the growing market of cable-cutters. Evidently trying to build a groundswell of demand for its pay-TV channel, Epix is enabling nonsubscribers to use the apps to watch the service's "robust offering of movie trailers, interviews and short form video content." Now there's a unique consumer value proposition!
It's also promising "limited free trials" of long-form content for nonsubscribers. Maybe that will persuade more of the people who do have access to the pay-TV version of Epix to subscribe, and maybe that's the true low-hanging fruit. But how large is that number compared with those who don't have access to Epix's cable channel?
-- Jon Healey