Sony Pictures Television has plans to launch two new movie channels later this year, continuing the company’s expansion, according to an LA Times story. One venture, tentatively titled Sony Pictures Movies HD, would be the company’s first wholly owned cable channel in the U.S. devoted to movies. Although the company owns an expansive portfolio of foreign channels, it has not tapped the cable TV channel business in the U.S.
The channel, scheduled to debut 10/1, is being designed to exploit Sony’s large film library and offer cable and satellite television operators another high-def channel to market their packages. Sony owns a stake in the Game Show Network, and it has been experimenting with an ad-supported online video service, Crackle, which allows people to watch movies and TV shows, as well as series “webisodes.”
The Sony movie channel would not be a premium service that competes with HBO, Starz or Showtime — or an upstart like Epix, according to the story. Two years ago, three prominent Hollywood studios — Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — teamed up to create the Epix movie channel, but they have encountered resistance from cable operators, who balked at paying as much as $1.50 a subscriber per month to carry the service.
Sony’s venture is expected to be a more modest affair, akin to the Universal HD and the MGM HD channels. MGM receives about 55 cents per subscriber.
The other new movie channel being offered to cable and satellite TV systems is FearNet, a joint venture of Sony, Lionsgate and Comcast. Offering up horror movies, FearNet currently is offered as an online service and VOD channel by MSOs including Comcast, Cox Communications, AT&T’s U-verse and Verizon Fios. Sony also is aiming for an 10/1 launch for the FearNet movie channel.