Sony Television plans to launch two new U.S. channels

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Sony Pictures Television has plans to launch two new movie channels later this year, continuing the company’s expansion, according to people familiar with the plans.

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 lucrative cable TV channel business in the U.S.

‘They have been very successful internationally with their channels, but in the U.S. they have not had the leverage of the other media conglomerates, which have a bunch of different cable channels,’ said Derek Baine, television analyst for the consulting firm SNL Kagan. ‘Perhaps they are doing this because the market to sell movies to broadcast and cable networks has been so bad.’

The channel, tentatively scheduled to debut Oct. 1, is being designed to exploit Sony’s large film library and offer cable and satellite television operators another high-definition channel to market their packages. Sony owns a stake in the Game Show Network, and it has been experimenting with an advertising-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 sources. 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, according to SNL Kagan data.

The other new movie channel being offered to cable and satellite TV systems is FearNet, a joint venture of Sony, Lionsgate and Comcast Corp. Boasting a trove of horror movies, FearNet currently is offered as an online service and a video-on-demand channel by some cable operators, including Comcast, Cox Communications, AT&T’s U-verse and Verizon Fios.

Although FearNet is available in about 28 million homes, TV video-on-demand channels have not gotten much traction. Sony also is aiming for an Oct. 1 launch for the FearNet movie channel.

Andy Kaplan, president of networks for Sony Pictures Television, is in charge of Sony’s efforts to get carriage for the channels. Steve Mosko is president of Sony Pictures Television.

-- Meg James