Mumbai: Viacom Inc, its Paramount Pictures unit, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and Lionsgate have formed a joint venture to create a next-generation premium television channel and video-on-demand service that combines new and classic feature film output and original television series of five leading studios.
The new premium channel, which will launch in the fall of 2009, will have access to Paramount and Paramount Vantage titles released on or after 1 January 2008 and MGM, United Artists and Lionsgate titles released on or after 1 January 2009.
The channel will have access during the pay television window to such recent films as Iron Man, Star Trek, Pink Panther 2, Cloverfield, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Shutter Island, GI Joe, Love Guru, and Valkyrie, along with many others currently in production, including planned new installments of Robocop and Outer Limits.
In addition, the new venture will have access to motion picture titles spanning the vast libraries of the five studios, which libraries include Braveheart, Forrest Gump and the Mission: Impossible, The Godfather and Star Trek franchises from Paramount; the James Bond, Pink Panther and Rocky franchises from MGM; and Dirty Dancing, Reservoir Dogs, Crash, Monster's Ball, the Saw franchise, the Tyler Perry catalogue and The Blair Witch Project from Lionsgate. The new venture will also feature new original television series created by the five studios.
Viacom will provide operational support to the venture, including marketing and affiliate services through its MTV Networks division.
Paramount has been a leading producer and distributor of motion pictures since 1912 and has a library consisting of approximately 3,500 motion pictures. Paramount's leadership has also produced some of the most celebrated programmes on television, including HBO's The Sopranos.
MGM owns the world's largest modern film library and it is comprised of celebrated titles from the United Artists, Orion Pictures, Goldwyn Entertainment and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment libraries.
Lionsgate is the leading independent producer and distributor of motion pictures, television programming, home entertainment, family entertainment, video on demand and digitally delivered content. The Lionsgate filmed entertainment library comprises approximately 12,000 titles.
Viacom, consisting of BET Networks, MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures, is the world's leading entertainment content company. It engages audiences on television, motion picture and digital platforms through many of the world's best known entertainment brands, including MTV, VH1, CMT, Logo, Harmonix, Nickelodeon, etc. Viacom's global reach includes approximately 150 channels and 300 online properties in 160 countries and territories.
The joint venture will take on CBS's Showtime Networks, which the three filmmakers used to have contracts with.
Viacom will take the largest share of the new joint venture, but no further financial details were released. Viacom, which owns the Paramount film studio and MTV Networks, was split from CBS in 2006 to appeal to different classes of shareholders. Both are controlled by Redstone.
Lionsgate and MGM are not expected to renew their contracts with Showtime when they expire at the end of 2008. Paramount's contract with Showtime ended in 2007 and has not been renewed.
Showtime, however, dismissed the threat of the new competition. As movies now are often sold on Apple's iTunes online store or on video-on-demand months before reaching pay TV, it is original programming such as HBO's popular series "The Sopranos" that attracts the biggest audiences.
Average household ratings for theatrical films have declined 80 per cent since 2001 at Showtime, according to Nielsen ratings.