Banking on the future of high-definition television, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is launching a movie channel next month on the DirecTV satellite service that will be the studio's first channel in the United States.
MGM HD will offer movies from its own 4,100-title library, initially screening such films as "West Side Story," "Robocop" and "Leaving Las Vegas."
Over time, the entire MGM library, which also includes such film franchises as the James Bond, "Rocky" and "Pink Panther" series, will be available.
At some point, the channel plans to broaden its menu by featuring movie-related original programming, including coverage of red-carpet premieres and "sneak peeks" at new films.
"This is an important milestone for MGM," said MGM Chairman Harry Sloan, who spent more than a decade working in global television before being hired two years ago to reinvigorate MGM after Sony Corp., Comcast Corp. and several private investors bought the studio for about $5 billion.
Sloan said this represented a change of strategy for MGM, which for the last 25 years had simply licensed its films to other cable and movie channels.
The strategic shift also coincides with Sloan's goal of doubling the value of MGM over the next five years, when the legendary studio is expected to go on the sales block again.
"In addition to only building our library, we are now building tangible assets," said Sloan, who noted that MGM's previous licensing strategy "generated revenue but didn't build assets the company would own."
Since taking over the studio, Sloan has launched new MGM channels in Eastern Europe and India. MGM currently operates movie networks in 120 countries, including its only other HD channel, in Poland.
Sloan, however, has been eager to launch a domestic channel.
"The biggest market is the U.S., and that's a goal I've had since I got to MGM," Sloan said. "The world is moving toward high-definition, and that created an opportunity for us."