The odd family dynamics at Sumner Redstone’s two companies are getting even odder: Viacom’s Paramount, in conjunction with MGM and Lionsgate, is creating its own pay TV channel which will have exclusive access to the three companies’ film libraries. Left out in the cold: Showtime, owned by Viacom’s sister company CBS, which depended on those three companies for its entire film slate.
The unnamed venture launches in fall 2009. At that time, here’s what the pay TV world’s movie slates will look like:
Time Warner’s HBO (TWX): Access to movies from TWX’s Warner Bros., News Corp.’s Fox (NWS), General Electric’s Universal Pictures (GE) and DreamWorks SKG.
Liberty Media’s Starz: Sony (SNE) — which also owns a piece of MGM — and Disney (DIS).
Showtime boss Matt Blank puts on a brave face while talking to the WSJ ($) and the NYT, but it’s hard to spin this one as a positive. HBO has been able to differentiate itself from pay TV competitors by producing its own programming, (Sopranos, Sex And The City, etc) but even it would struggle if deprived of all of its movies. And while Showtime has made some encouraging steps in that area (Weeds, The Tudors), it remains a perennial also-ran to HBO, and this move will only increase the distance between the two.
Our question: If Sumner really wanted CBS’ Les Moonves to shut down Showtime, why not just tell him to do that in the first place, instead of having Viacom’s Philippe Dauman do the deed for him?
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