Epix goes for scripted programs of its own

Channel sets up 'Tough Trade' from Jenji Kohan

Epix, the upcoming premium cable channel and broadband service owned by Viacom, Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate, is venturing into original scripted programming.

Epix has greenlighted drama pilot "Tough Trade" from Lionsgate TV and Jenji Kohan, the creator/executive producer of the Lionsgate TV-produced Showtime comedy "Weeds."

"Trade" -- about a three-generation Nashville music dynasty whose penchant for drink, debauchery and divorce has left them on the verge of bankruptcy -- will begin filming in Nashville in late summer.

Mark Greenberg, president of Studio 3 Networks, the joint venture behind Epix, said he expects "Trade" to become Epix's first scripted series with a 2010 premiere.

Epix's TV channel is targeted for a launch in October, following the May rollout of the broadband service. No carriage deals have been struck but discussions continue, Greenberg said.

While Epix reached out to partner Lionsgate for its first series, Greenberg stressed that the channel will be looking to outside suppliers too.

"Trade" was created by Chris Offutt ("Weeds"), who will co-exec produce. The project, exec produced by Kohan and Bryan Furst, was originally developed at HBO and had also been pitched to Showtime. Kohan is committed to "Weeds," which has been picked up for two more seasons, but if her schedule permits, she may serve as showrunner on "Trade" as well.

"This is a genre and area of storytelling that has never been explored outside of features," Lionsgate TV president Kevin Beggs said.

"Trade" represents another Lionsgate TV-produced maiden drama series for a cable network breaking into original programming, following "The Dead Zone" for USA, "Mad Men" for AMC and "Crash" for Starz.
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