MGM Planning HD Movie Channel

Mar 1, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Venerable movie studio MGM is in conversations with cable and satellite operators to launch its first domestic television channel: MGM HD.

The studio hopes to launch MGM HD by the end of the year as a movie channel drawing from its library of 4,100 theatrical titles-about 1,200 of which currently are available in the high-definition format-and hundreds of hours of television content.

“We have the strongest HD library of any of the studios,” said Douglas Lee, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Digital Media, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. “We’ve been developing the concept for the past year. We’ve talked to a lot of cable, satellite and telco companies, and people have been receptive.”

DirecTV plans to launch 100 national HD channels by the end of the year; currently there are fewer than half that number available. Recently, several top cable networks including TBS, USA and FX announced they will launch HD simulcasts as part of DirecTV’s HD initiative, which is expected to roll out this fall.

Though Mr. Lee declined to single out any video provider as a frontrunner to launch the channel, the DirecTV HD effort has caused an industrywide scramble for more bandwidth and HD content to remain competitive.

“When DirecTV launches their new HD package, that’s going to raise the bar for all the other providers,” Mr. Lee said.

MGM HD would join HDNet and another studio-based effort, Universal HD, among the few stand-alone, non-premium national HD movie channels. Like HDNet, the MGM plan currently calls for the titles to air uncensored.

Mr. Lee said MGM HD will stand apart from the competition.

“[The other channels have] shown there’s an appetite for HD entertainment services,” he said. “But clearly one branded MGM is stronger branded.”

Some titles available for MGM HD include “The Usual Suspects,” “Tank Girl,” “Cherry 2000” and “RoboCop.”

MGM library has changed hands over the years, most significantly in 1985, when Ted Turner acquired the studio’s back catalog of classic titles. Today MGM owns nearly all of its post-1986 library, all of the United Artists library, a majority of the Orion Pictures film and television library and the pre-1996 Samuel Goldwyn library. MGM began converting its library titles to HD years ago as various licensing deals called for HD content.

MGM also owns and operates a standard-definition network, The MGM Channel, which is available in 120 foreign territories.

(Editor: Horowitz)