Epix spreads word about original fare

New channel eyeing first scripted offering for 2010 bow

Epix is serious about original programming -- that's the message the fledging multiplatform service's newly minted head of development Laverne McKinnon is relaying to the creative community in a series of presentations she has been doing around town.

The premium channel's launch recently was slated for Oct. 30, with the programming lineup for the launch weekend featuring the TV and online premieres of Madonna's concert special "Sticky & Sweet: Live From Buenos Aires" as well as Marvel's "Iron Man" and the comedy special "Eddie Izzard: Live From Wembley."

According to people present at the pitches, McKinnon said that after starting off with a mix of music and comedy specials and movies, Epix -- a joint venture of Viacom, Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate -- will segue into original scripted programming.

The channel's first original scripted offering, probably a miniseries, is eyed for a premiere in third-quarter 2010.

Among Epix's longform projects in development is the mini "Atlas Shrugged" that might star Charlize Theron.

The channel then is looking to launch a scripted program each quarter, possibly alternating between minis and 13-episode series.

Epix's first series is expected to be "Tough Trade," a drama project about a Nashville dynasty from Lionsgate TV and "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan, which was picked up to pilot in February and recently enlisted "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" helmer Gavin Hood as director.

Filmmakers like Hood are welcome at Epix, which McKinnon said will look to attract filmmakers previously not exposed to TV.

The channel plans to be aggressive too, offering competitive deals to creative auspices and providing its scripted programs with budgets in line with those at premium cable rivals HBO and Showtime.

Epix has announced only one carriage agreement -- with Verizon's FiOS TV -- but is expected to add more deals in the next few months, McKinnon said.