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New movie net is on track says Viacom

Viacom boss Philippe Dauman tells TBIvision that its new movie network is on track and that it will bring something to market not offered by the current premium networks HBO and Showtime.

Eyebrows were raised when Viacom announced in April that it was teaming with MGM and Lionsgate to launch a new premium cable net in the US, not least because it would pitch it in direct competition with Showtime, which is owned by CBS and, until 2006’s stock split, was part of the Viacom empire. Questions were also asked about whether there is room for another premium network.

"The major difference from a content standpoint is that instead of having middlemen we have the creators involved directly – that gives us a lot of flexibility," says Dauman. "By creating a new service we thought we could adapt to the way that media is being consumed today. It will be a linear channel at its core but with broadband applications too."

He adds: "It will be all-HD and there will be expanded VOD capacity. There will even be some gaming involved – that was one of the aspects around the acquisition of [Screenlife, operator of movie quiz game] Scene It."

The new service, which is being run by ex-Showtime and HBO man Mark Greenberg, is on track to launch at the start of October 2009, the Viacom boss says.

Because of the partners’ numerous international output deals the new net is unlikely to launch outside of the US.

Viacom’s Paramount Pictures will fold in its content with that of its partners and bosses are keen to emphasize that new movies will be available the day they become available.

"Right now not all films provided are available on the first day of the pay window – we’ll have all new releases on the first day of that window," Dauman says. "A lot of output deals have a lot of restrictions. We own the content so we can go beyond what’s out there, we can, for example, involve the talent."

Showtime, meanwhile, says its deals with Lionsgate and MGM run to the end of the year. CBS has deals with Weinstein and the CBS Films imprint, which will help fill the gap and CBS boss Les Moonves has said that the cable net’s USP is its original programming, which includes Weeds and Dexter. "There’s no shortage of movies," he told press.