Paramount Pictures has been involved in the pay television business since the 1950s. In the 1950s and 1960s, Paramount owned Telemeter, an ambitious but expensive theater television system which used closed circuits (as opposed to broadcast frequencies) over which customers purchased broadcasts by dropping coins into a box.
In April 1980, Paramount (then owned by Gulf+Western), MCA/Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox partnered with Getty Oil to launch an attempt at a pay service jointly owned by the four film studios called Premiere, a cable television service that gave exclusive first-run rights to the studios' newer feature films (airing nine months before they would be shown on other premium services), along with films cherry-picked from other studios without any exclusivity. Displeased, this led Time-Life, Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment and Viacom/TelePrompTer (the then respective owners of HBO, The Movie Channel and Showtime) to file an antitrust lawsuit against the studios with the U.S. Justice Department in 1980. The Justice Department issued an injunction blocking Premiere's planned January 1, 1981 launch, deeming the venture an illegal boycott of the other pay services, which could be hurt through possible price fixing of film titles. Following the scrapping of the venture after the government ruling and a subsequent failed attempt by Paramount and Universal to acquire a portion of Warner-Amex's existing but struggling pay service The Movie Channel, Paramount signed an exclusive distribution agreement with another established premium channel, Showtime – which already maintained a distribution deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer – in 1983.
Both of Showtime's tenures with Paramount ended in acrimony. In the spring of 1989, Paramount struck an exclusive licensing agreement with HBO; subsequently that May, Paramount filed a lawsuit against Showtime Networks, its parent Viacom and, the corporate parent of both entities, National Amusements over Showtime's alleged refusal to pay a total of $88 million in fees for five films (that underperformed in their theatrical release) to reduce the minimum liability for its 75-film package from the studio).
Showtime regained first-run pay cable rights to Paramount films through a seven-year distribution deal signed in May 1995 (following Viacom's merger with Paramount Pictures parent Paramount Communications the year prior), which gave it rights to all of the studio's film releases from 1997 onward starting in January 1998, following the expiration of Paramount's contract with HBO. By 2002, Lions Gate Entertainment joined Paramount and MGM as Showtime's major film suppliers. Paramount's distribution contract with Showtime expired in January 2008, three years after the original Viacom corporate structure was split into two different companies, the current Viacom, and CBS Corporation (which retained Showtime Networks in the split), while MGM's and Lions Gate's contracts expired at the end of that year.
The formation of Epix was announced on April 21, 2008, after negotiations between Paramount Pictures, MGM, and Lions Gate Entertainment with Showtime to renew their existing film output deals broke down, the result of disagreements on the amount of revenue the studios wanted Showtime to compensate them for running their film input on the channel. In December 2008, the three studios – which named their jointly owned holding company for the channel, Studio 3 Partners – selected the name "Epix" for their premium channel and on-demand service. MTV Networks was tapped to provide operational support for the channel, including marketing and affiliate services. The channel's initial film output involved Paramount films released after 2008, MGM (and subsidiary United Artists) and Lionsgate releases from 2009 onward, as well as content from the individual studios' film libraries. Though Epix was first announced by Studio 3 Partners as strictly a premium service, it eventually began to seek distribution as a hybrid premium/digital basic channel (similar to the distribution method of Encore) with its programming being presented uncut and commercial-free. The channel also reportedly sought a monthly license fee of $1 to $1.50 per subscriber from prospective providers.
On July 28, 2009, Epix reached its first carriage agreement with Verizon FiOS. Three major pay television providers – cable providers Comcast and Cablevision, and satellite provider DirecTV – formally announced in August 2009 (two months prior to its launch), that they would not carry Epix. DirecTV said regarding its decision not to carry the channel: "We think there are enough [premium channels] out there already, we don't see the value of adding another movie channel."
On August 28, 2009, Epix offered a free preview to Verizon FiOS subscribers, showing select films that the channel would offer upon its formal debut. This included the premium cable premieres of Iron Man (2008), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), and Cloverfield (2008). During this preview, Epix added between five and seven movie selections every three days from the libraries of its three major studio backers. On September 25, 2009, the channel announced plans for an expanded online video on demand service, the "Epix MegaPlex", that began offering a minimum of 3,000 film titles beginning in the summer of 2010, while the basic Epix online VOD service would have about 200 titles upon its official October 2010 launch. Epix's online offering includes over 3,000 titles for streaming, available to all subscribers through the network's apps and Epix.com; as a result, Epix offers a wider library of movies for streaming than the other premium networks combined. The network continues to expand its VOD selection through cable, satellite and telco operators but does not include more than 150 to 200 titles per month due to the bandwidth constraints of these systems.
Within weeks of its October 2009 launch, Epix signed an exclusive first-run film content agreements with two additional studios: a deal with Samuel Goldwyn Films to broadcast 20 movies from the studio, and a deal to carry 22 feature films from independent film studio Roadside Attractions.
The Epix television service officially launched at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on October 30, 2009 on Verizon FiOS systems, becoming the first U.S. premium cable channel (not counting multiplex services of existing pay services) to debut since Liberty Media and Tele-Communications, Inc. launched Starz 15 years earlier on February 1, 1994. The first program to air on the channel was the film Iron Man, followed by the concert special Madonna Sticky & Sweet Tour: Live from Buenos Aires. The then-single channel service was available to Verizon FiOS subscribers for free for the channel's debut weekend with a monthly subscription to the channel costing $9.99 per month (significantly less than other premium channels, which normally range in price from $12.99 to $17.99 per month). Epix also provided customers (including those that were not Verizon FiOS subscribers), free previews of the online service using invite codes to access the website's film content that were given on a first come, first served basis each weekend through the end of November 2009.
Cox Communications reached a carriage deal with Epix on January 9, 2010, with the channel becoming available on April 1, on its television service in both standard and high definition, as well as via video on demand and online. Mediacom signed a carriage agreement with Epix on January 14, 2010. This was followed on April 19, 2010 by Dish Network's announcement that it would immediately begin carrying the channel as part of its "PlatinumHD" package, making it the channel's only national distribution partner. On April 29, 2010, Charter Communications began carrying Epix as a package that offers both the channel's video on demand content in standard (150 titles at a time) and high definition (75 titles at a time), along with online streaming for $10 per month.
Following its addition to Dish Network, Epix launched its first two multiplex channels on the satellite provider during the 2010 calendar year: EPIX2 debuted first on May 12, followed by the August 11 debut of The 3 From Epix, which carries movies from the 1970s to the present. On December 31 of that year, Suddenlink Communications reached an agreement with Viacom to carry Epix as part of an overall extension of its agreement to carry channels owned by Viacom subsidiary MTV Networks. On March 4, 2014, Time Warner Cable (one of the cable providers that initially declined to carry the channel) announced that it had reached an agreement with Viacom to begin carrying Epix and multiplex channels beginning March 18.
On August 10, 2010, Netflix announced an exclusive licensing deal with Epix, allowing Netflix streaming subscribers access to movie titles to which Epix holds the television and primary streaming rights. Since its inception, Epix was among the first to institute TV Everywhere capabilities. It was the first premium network to make its films available for streaming (beginning with the network's launch in 2009, its films were available via Epix.com). It was also the first premium network to have its program content available on Roku devices, the Microsoft Xbox, and (after entering a distribution agreement with Sony Corporation on January 3, 2013) the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita gaming devices, and (as of November 7 that year) PlayStation 4.
On June 2, 2014, Bright House Networks – which has its carriage agreements negotiated on their behalf by Time Warner Cable – added the Epix multiplex, with all four channels being offered as part of a three-month free preview upon its initial rollout. The following month on July 14, Epix signed a multi-platform distribution agreement with AT&T U-verse, in which the channel's content would be made available to subscribers through the website and apps of both Epix and U-verse, as well as on AT&T on Demand. On February 16, 2015, as part of a carriage renewal agreement with Dish Network, the provider announced an agreement to carry all four Epix channels as a premium channel add-on option for its over-the-top television service Sling TV.
On July 8, 2015, Epix announced its first original scripted project to be picked up as a series, both of which are set for a fall 2016 debut: Graves, a Lionsgate Television political satire, and Berlin Station, a Paramount Television espionage drama.
Depending on the service provider, Epix provides up to eight multiplex channels – four 24-hour multiplex channels, three of which are simulcast in both standard definition and high definition (with the exception of EPIX Drive-In, which broadcasts solely in standard definition) – as well as a subscription video-on-demand service (Epix on Demand).
Three of the multiplex channels – EPIX2, EPIX Hits, and EPIX Drive-In – are distributed less extensively than the primary Epix channel; as such, the availability of any of the three channels varies depending on the carrier (provider availability of the multiplex channels is noted within the descriptions below). Epix broadcasts its primary channel on both Eastern and Pacific Time Zone schedules, while its multiplex channels are broadcast solely on an Eastern Time Zone schedule.
EPIX HD is both the name of the simulcast television feed and of the network's online on-demand service available on Android devices, Android TV, Apple iOS, Chromecast, Epix.com, and Microsoft Xbox (both Xbox 360, and Xbox One), the Roku streaming player, select Samsung Smart TV models, and Sony PlayStation consoles. High definition programming content on the online service is offered in the 1080i resolution format; the PlayStation and Xbox apps include live streams of all four Epix channels, in addition to on-demand content.
On October 29, 2009, Epix's on-demand streaming service, which requires a subscription to one of the channel's participating television providers in order to access content, launched to the public – one day before the linear channel's launch.
EPIX HD is also the name of Epix's high definition, 1080i resolution, simulcast cable television feed. It was launched on October 30, 2009, alongside the channel's standard-definition feed. The HD simulcast originally encompassed only the East Coast feed of the main channel, but has since extended to a Pacific Time Zone feed (available exclusively on AT&T U-verse), and simulcasts of EPIX2 and EPIX3. It is currently available nationally through Dish Network and is carried regionally by AT&T U-verse, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, EPB, Mediacom, Suddenlink Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FiOS.
EPIX on Demand is Epix's television video on demand service that is available to the channel's subscribers at no additional cost. It offers feature films, and original concert and stand-up comedy specials that were previously seen on the network. EPIX on Demand's rotating program selection incorporates select new titles that are added each Friday, alongside existing program titles held over from the previous one to two weeks. It is available to Epix subscribers of Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Dish Network, Mediacom, Sling TV, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FiOS.
Epix currently has exclusive deals with major and smaller independent movie studios. As of January 2014, films featured on the channel primarily include recent releases and film library content from the network's three corporate parents: Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures (along with film content from its subsidiaries Paramount Vantage, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (along with content from subsidiary United Artists) and Lions Gate Entertainment (along with content from subsidiaries Mandate Pictures and Pantelion Films), as well as feature films from Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions (the latter of which is part-owned by Lionsgate, in conjunction with company founders Howard Cohen and Eric d'Arbeloff). Although Lionsgate acquired Summit Entertainment in January 2012, that studio's movies appear on rival HBO due to a previously signed five year output deal with that channel covering all Summit releases through 2017, which was extended to 2022.
The window between a film's initial release in theaters and its initial airing on Epix is stated to be slightly smaller than the grace period between its initial theatrical release and its initial pay television broadcast on either HBO/Cinemax, Showtime or Starz; as such, films will have a longer broadcast duration during their term of license agreement than is currently possible with the other major premium channels. Epix's programming format is similar to that of the primary channel of Encore, in that its schedule includes recent film releases that are interspersed with older movies released between the 1970s and the 1990s, with recently released films often scheduled alongside the older film titles during daytime and prime time slots.
On August 10, 2010, Netflix announced an exclusive licensing deal with Epix, allowing Netflix streaming subscribers access to movie titles to which Epix holds the television and primary streaming rights. Titles became available less than one month later on September 1, with some newer films being released on Netflix within 90 days of their premiere on the Epix television and streaming services.
On September 4, 2012, following the expiration of the exclusivity clause of the Netflix agreement that allowed Epix to license streaming rights for films distributed to the channel to competing services, Epix entered into a three-year agreement with Amazon to provide film content on its Prime Video streaming service. Films will appear on both Amazon and Netflix after the same 90-day delay period following their Epix debut.
On August 31, 2015, Epix announced that it had signed a multi-year nonexclusive contract to license the partial streaming rights to its film content to Hulu; in turn, Netflix opted to end its streaming licensing agreement with Epix after its expiration at the end of September of that year.
Prior to the network's launch, Epix ordered its first original series pilot, Tough Trade (to have been produced by corporate sister Lionsgate Television). The drama, created by Jenji Kohan (creator of Weeds and Orange Is the New Black), was to have centered on three generations of a dysfunctional family involved in country music. A pilot was filmed in late summer 2009 in Nashville, with the intent of being picked up to series for a 2010 debut; however, Epix passed on giving Tough Trade a series order. The network's first original comedy special, Lewis Black's Stark Raving Black, premiered on the channel on December 5, 2009.
Laverne McKinnon (who previously served as head of drama development for CBS), resigned from her role as executive vice president of original programming and development for Epix on August 4, 2011. Epix remained active in producing other original programming exclusively for the channel (as of August 2013), including documentaries, sports, comedy, and music specials. On June 30, 2012, Epix launched a monthly showcase called "EPIX Comedy Unbound", featuring comedy specials airing on the final weekend of each month; the first special to be aired as part of the showcase was Jim Norton: Please Be Offended.
On January 12, 2015, Epix hired Jocelyn Diaz – who immediately prior to her appointment had served as vice president of production at The Walt Disney Studios, and was previously head of drama development at HBO – as its executive vice president of original programming and development as part of a renewed effort at producing original programming, with a focus on developing scripted dramas. On July 8, 2015, Epix announced its first original scripted project to be picked up as a series, both of which are set for a fall 2016 debut: Graves, a political satire from Lionsgate TV to star Sela Ward and Nick Nolte and created by Joshua Michael Stern, and Berlin Station, an espionage drama to be produced by Paramount Television. In 2016, Epix ordered a Get Shorty TV series produced by MGM Television. In 2017, Epix will produce a Picture Paris TV series starring Meg Ryan.
On March 19, 2011, Epix became the third premium cable channel (after HBO and Showtime) to air professional boxing events with the telecast of a heavyweight title fight between Vitali Klitschko and Odlanier Solis, held in Cologne, Germany. In addition to airing on the linear Epix channel, the fight was also streamed live on the channel's website. The fight was the first heavyweight title boxing event to air on American television since Klitschko's September 2009 match against Chris Arreola (which aired one month prior to Epix's debut), and the first televised heavyweight championship bout since Klitschko's December 2009 match against Kevin Johnson.
Epix also serves as the broadcast rightsholder for the Bellator Fighting Championships mixed martial arts tournament; Bellator matches are carried by its multiplex channel EPIX2, rather than the primary channel.
Beginning with the National Hockey League's 2014-15 season, Epix also holds the rights to broadcast documentary series leading up to some of the league's major events, starting with the 2015 Winter Classic.Berlin Station (October 16, 2016)
Graves (October 16, 2016)