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Comcast and MGM launch action channel

The video-on-demand cable offering, called Impact, features films and television shows in the genre.

August 13, 2008|Swati Pandey | Times Staff Writer

The Terminator said he would be back. Now, Comcast Corp. cable TV subscribers can summon him from their sofas.

The Philadelphia-based cable giant joined movie company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. on Tuesday to announce the launch of a video-on-demand channel, Impact, solely for action titles like the Arnold Schwarzenegger picture, as well as action-oriented TV shows. Comcast and MGM said they began offering the channel this week.

Drawing from MGM's library of 1,000 action movies, including classics such as "The Magnificent Seven" and films from the James Bond franchise, the advertiser-supported channel hopes to attract viewers who don't want to wait for a Netflix rental to arrive in the mail or a programmed cable channel to air their favorites.

The venture marks the first major collaboration between the companies since 2005, when Comcast was part of a group along with Sony Corp. and private equity investors that acquired MGM. Comcast owns a 20% stake in the studio.

"Viewing and usage of video on demand on Comcast has been increasing. It's a core strategy for them," said Larry Gerbrandt, founder of media research and consulting firm Media Valuation Partners.

Impact will offer Comcast's 16 million digital customers a selection of 25 to 30 movies per month in standard definition, with many available in high definition.

The channel will join Comcast's other video-on-demand offerings, including Fearnet, which features horror movies targeting a similar young male demographic.

"Impact complements Fearnet because like horror, the action genre has a very big fan base," said Jim Packer, co-president of MGM Worldwide Television. "The fact that you see action movies on [cable channels] USA and Spike is a testament to the strength of the genre."

But Packer said he didn't see those other channels as direct competitors to Impact because they are not dedicated solely to the action genre.

Action films have generated $2.5 billion in ticket sales at the box office this year, according to MGM, and more than one-third of those released in the last 10 years have opened at No. 1.

The companies plan to launch an Impact website in beta testing within months, and to make the channel available through other cable operators, much like Fearnet. MGM will be the exclusive supplier of the channel's content. And because Impact will feature mostly older movies, MGM won't have much to fear from rentals or downloads.

"You can always worry about too much competition," Packer said.

"But technology is allowing people to get more entertainment in more places."

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swati.pandey@latimes.com

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