updated 11:05 am EDT, Mon June 8, 2009
Epix HD Beta
Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount today launched an invitation beta for Epix, a hybrid cable and online movie streaming service meant to supplement rather than replace regular pay-per-view TV. Anyone with a cable package that includes the channel will get access to the studios' movies weeks ahead of their regular DVD releases for "free" but will simultaneously have access to streaming, 720p versions of those same movies for their computers. The approach is ad-free, even online, and automatically scales the bitrate up or down (to as low as 500Kbps) depending on the quality of the connection.
In exchange for the online component, Epix has agreed to strike special deals with the TV providers themselves. Access will require both Internet and TV service through the same company. While limiting and potentially more expensive than relying on ad-supported movies through Hulu or a separate subscription through Netflix, the new feature promises both the lack of interruptions as well as a wider pick of movies.
The beta is initially limited but is allowing sign-ups for limited expansion over the next few months.
Services like Epix have been proposed in recent memory for both movies and TV, and have often been seen as defensive measures from cable providers attempting to protect lucrative revenue streams from losses to customers opting solely for Internet-based features, including pay-per-rental services like iTunes or the Xbox Video Marketplace. An online component to a cable channel is also a compromise for cable providers that want to avoid resorting to low bandwidth caps like Time Warner's as a means of steering customers away from outside, Internet-only services. [via Ars Technica]