Epix, a new premium movie channel that will launch this weekend, goes a step further. If you are a Verizon FiOS subscriber, you will be able to watch the same movies that Epix shows on TV on the channel's Internet site. Epix is a joint venture between Viacom, MGM Studios and Lionsgate. If you are not a FiOS subscriber, you can still take a peek at the service. You can request a three-day pass here or read on for instructions on how to claim a 30-day pass.Almost every TV channel offers some programming on the Web these days.
While only FiOS subscribers can currently access the programming on Epix's site, the channel's chief digital officer Emil Rensing today told us that the company is actively pursuing deals with other Internet and cable providers as well. The company, though, isn't ready to make any announcements about these partnerships, yet.
We got a chance to test the web site over the last week and the site, which will feature an exclusive Madonna concert to celebrate the launch this weekend, feels very similar to Hulu - just with a different kind of content. It's completely Flash-based, so users won't have to install any new plugins to use the service. This, Emil Rensing stressed when we talked to him today, was done on purpose to make the user experience frictionless.
The quality of the videos on the site, which scales up to 720p HD depending on your connection's speed, is exceptionally good. A user needs to have at least a 500kbps connection, though this shouldn't be an issue for FiOS subscribers who are watching at home.
The site currently features about 300 movies, including relatively recent releases like Iron Man and the latest Indiana Jones movie. Rensing told us that he expects to be able to offer over 3000 movies by the end of next year. Because of Epix's close connection to various movie studies, the site will be able to feature movies about 9 months after their theatrical release. Most premium channels like HBO have to wait about a year before they can show a movie.
More Than Just Movies: Extras & Sharing
If Epix was only a premium movie channel on the web, it would be interesting in its own right. The site, however, also offers a number of interesting additional features.
Epix, for example, features DVD-like extras like interviews and behind-the-scenes specials for almost every movie. Right now, most of these are produced by the studios, but Epix will add more original programming over time.
Another feature is the sites 'watch with a friend' functionality. This allows users to watch a movie together with up to 5 friends, no matter if they are FiOS subscribers or not. The host remains in full control over the video playback and can start and stop the video at any time. As Rensing told us, Epix wants to recreate the feeling of inviting your friends over to your house, so it doesn't care if your friends subscribe to the same channels you do.
Get Your Invites (Even if You Don't Have FiOS)
If you are interested in giving Epix a try, you can request an invite for a three-day pass here. These will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis. Epix also provided us with 180 30-day VIP passes. If you want to claim one of these, you have to follow these instructions:
- follow @epixHD on Twitter
- tweet "@epixHD Experience Epix #readwriteweb"