Epix to Provide Free Streaming Movies in 720p

Paramount, MGM, and Lionsgate have jointly announced the launch of Epix, an online HD streaming service and HD TV station that will make it possible for users to watch films from these three studios for free in HD. Although currently in private beta, Epix will offer movies from each of these studios via a cable TV network channel as well as through an online, on-demand 720p streaming website, Epixhd.com.

While Epix may appear similar to Hulu at first glance, Epix is different in that it has no advertising. Better yet, you won’t see any extra charges on your cable bill with Epix and you’ll get to see movies before they hit DVD, during the same time period when they would show up on pay-per-view and pay channels. Emil Rensing, chief digital office at Epix, says the movies will also be available for viewers to watch online in full 720p streaming.

When streaming content over the web, the video will be provided through Flash and will also be multi-bitrate enabled. In other words, the Flash player will check the available bandwidth every ten seconds to see if a larger or smaller stream is needed. Epix currently provides six different codings ranging from 720p to 500Kbps (cell phone format).

By now, you’re probably wondering what the catch is. There is one prerequisite in relation to the streaming service: it will only be available if you subscribe to your cable company’s Internet package and cable TV package. This is good for the cable and Internet providers, and it helps them cover their costs.

Epix is working to keep the content free by striking deals with cable and satellite providers to offer the channel as part of the standard TV lineup. Other distributors such as Verizon's FiOS and AT&T's U-verse have also been mentioned as possible customers. Although Epix hasn’t gone into specific details regarding how the content will be provided without a source of revenue, it’s been reported that Epix is considering a strategy similar to ESPN 30, ESPN's streaming service. ESPN 30 is sold directly to ISPs and is not available to end users. Thus, ISPs who lease the channel have another way to differentiate themselves over those who don’t lease the channel.