Epix lands former CBS exec

Hires Laverne McKinnon as head of development

Epix is making a push into original programming with the hire of former CBS drama chief Laverne McKinnon as head of development at the fledging premium TV service.

A rep for Epix declined comment Tuesday, but McKinnon reportedly has already been working behind the scenes at the company, a joint venture of Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM.

Epix's programming efforts have focused mainly on signing film-output deals, including pacts with Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn, to complement titles from the venture's co-owners as Epix gears for the launch of its Web content service.

Additionally, Epix, which so far has announced only one carriage agreement -- with Verizon's FiOS TV -- has picked up a Lewis Black comedy special and a music special based on Madonna's Sticky & Sweet concert tour.

On the original-series side, Epix in February greenlighted its first and only pilot to date, the drama "Tough Trade."

The project, from Lionsgate TV and "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan, recently has begun ramping up for production, with a director expected to be brought on board soon.

McKinnon spent 10 years at CBS, rising to senior vp drama until her departure in 2006 for family reasons.

She subsequently joined Mike Newell's production company as head of TV and is an executive producer with Newell on "Roc Doc," a project in development at USA Network.