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Epix launches with free offer but limited distribution

Epix launches in the US today with limited distribution but a three-day free viewing pass for US consumers this weekend. The free pass (for US viewers here: http://www.epixhd.com/invite/) allows consumers to try out the online EpixHD.com service.

The pay TV service is a joint venture between Viacom, Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM and has struggled to get wide distribution ahead of launch. It is carried on the Verizon FiOS service, taking it in to 2.5 million homes, and there are strong rumors it is close to a carriage deal with Echostar-owned DTH platform Dish. There are, however, no deals yet with Comcast or the other major cablers. Epix president Mark Greenberg said this week that negotiations with four other operators are at an advanced stage.

The programming line-up on the new service extends to movies including Iron Man and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and recordings of live events including a recent Madonna concert and an Eddie Izzard: Live from Wembley comedy special. It has also commissioned Tough Trade, a family drama series from Lionsgate set against a country music background.

The service is hoping to differentiate itself from the competition by getting an earlier window on movies and rolling out multiplatform elements it hopes will attract a younger demo.