It sounds too good to be true. Three Hollywood studios (Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM) plan to introduce a new service called Epix that will be available online and on television. Epix will feature recent titles from the three studios in high definition before they're released on DVD or Blu-ray, without commercial interruption, and without charge to the consumer. Sign me up, right? Big surprise: there is a catch. Or two, actually.
As explained at ars technica, the films will be available in the "pay-TV window," after the theatrical release concludes and before the title hits DVD. Epix wants to convince cable TV operators to bundle their network into an already-existing package, and thus avoid a separate, additional monthly fee. No partners have been announced yet. That's the first catch.
Here's the second: if you want to watch the films online, on demand, via EpixHD.com, you have to subscribe to the same provider's Internet offering. In the words of ars technica: "If Comcast were to offer Epix, users would need to pay for both Comcast cable and Comcast Internet in order to access the streaming, on-demand service. That's good for Comcast, and it helps them cover the cost of the service." That may be good for the cable operators, but if you're like me and have satellite service and/or DSL, you're out of luck.
EpixHD.com is "currently in private beta" and, contrary to what is stated in ars technica, there is no way I see for private citizens to sign up. The site says "library classics" will be available in addition to newer titles. More free movies are always welcome, though I wonder how widespread Epix will become.