Michael Wright, president of MGM/Epix, says that his first priority when he came to Epix three years ago was to get decent distribution for the premium television network. And that’s an ongoing task.
Speaking today at the virtual FierceVideo Stream TV show, Wright said when he was first approached about the top job at Epix, he couldn’t even find the network. It was only available in 40 million homes out of a potential 110 million homes. He joked, “My first priority was to make it available. Attack the distribution challenges. We started talking to everybody in the distribution space.”
He wanted to make Epix ubiquitous. And he said it now is available “everywhere.”
He shared some of his thoughts on getting a television channel noticed in today’s world of almost innumerable choices.
“If you’re trying to jump-start from a standing start, you’re at a disadvantage,” he said. It could cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per subscriber to start from such a place. Better, he said to piggyback on a business that’s already reaching your customers. In Epix’s case, this meant partnering with the “thriving MVPD system,” he said. “For Epix to ignore that world would be foolish. MVPDs is a no-brainer for us. They’ve got this giant audience.”
The company has its own digital platform Epix Now, but it also partners with a plethora of other partners.
“While building our digital business we’ve gone out of our way to work with the Comcasts, the DirecTVs, the Dishes and make our product a high-quality, lower-cost option for them,” said Wright. “The biggest obstacle to your success, beyond making something good, is simple awareness. We’ve grown our subscribers in a shrinking ecosystem.”
In addition to the cable companies, Epix also partners with Amazon, Roku and “all the digital aggregators,” he said.
Content on Epix
Wright also talked about Epix’s special programming niche, or addressable market. Epix delivers originals as well as curated content from MGM and other sources.
The company has determined that its audience skews to adults that are relatively sophisticated, not especially interested in special effects and spectacle, but who love good storytelling. He said Epix targets this audience with the equivalent to R-rated movies.
But the company doesn’t consider it a settled matter. Tastes are constantly changing. It uses analytics and metrics to keep close tabs on its audience.
“We have an instinct about the audience — using our own data and data you can buy — to make sure we’re zeroed in on an audience that still exists,” he said.
“Our addressable audience was intuitive but also heavily-researched,” said Wright, adding that research is critical. “You can’t operate a business from a perspective of wishful thinking.”
The company gets a lot of its data from its own Epix Now digital platform, which provides metrics on a minute-by-minute basis.