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Epix Has Ambitious Online Plan

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NEW YORK Offering movies and related content online more comprehensively than any premium TV player has done so far is a key focus for Epix, the joint venture of Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM.

Part of the game plan is making films currently playing on the Epix linear TV channel available on-demand and surrounding them with fun facts and cool extras.

Epix chief digital officer Emil Rensing last week gave The Hollywood Reporter one of the first sneak peeks at the beta version of EpixHD.com, which he is continuously updating and improving for an expected launch later this year.

What is clear from the early look at EpixHD.com is that it is catering to younger consumers and their DVR and social-networking habits, as well as movie buffs.

"There has not been a lot of product innovation in pay TV," Rensing said. "It's all about choice for us. ... We want to let [consumers] do what they want to do."

As an example, he mentioned that hit movies on competitors' channels traditionally start at a predetermined time -- say 8 p.m. "I'm not home then," Rensing said. "Why can't I watch online when I want?"

About 100 movies are currently available on the beta site, which Epix is letting select people and business partners preview -- along with studio stills, movie posters and DVD-style extras, such as trailers, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew information. Below the video window, users can also find a synopsis and 10 fun facts about the movie they are watching.

"Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise wanted the part of Iron Man, but it was Robert Downey Jr. who took the lead," says one fact about Iron Man. "To prepare for his role, Downey spent five days a week weight training and practiced martial arts to get into shape ... the other two days were spent singing 'Na Na Na Na Na Na' to Cage and Cruise."

If users want to own the film DVD, the EpixHD.com beta allows them to connect to Amazon.com or eBay with an easy click. Epix can even make money that way as Amazon's affiliate program pays a referral fee, explained Rensing.

For the social-networking generation, a button allows users to say "I like this movie," and Rensing said his team is working on integration features with popular networking sites.

How do people find the movie they want? The site allows users to search for films by genre, most popular, newest added and collections. The category "classics," for example, brought up such films as Rain Main, King Kong, Serpico, Fatal Attraction and Raging Bull.

Rensing said by giving consumers different ways to look for content, his team wants to offer browsing as well as discovery opportunities.

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