The story of EPIX on DIRECTV is a strange one. For the longest time, EPIX was the white whale of streaming services. It was the only service that DISH had that DIRECTV did not. And when DIRECTV did finally add it, they did so in a kind of weird way. The service wasn’t folded into the Premier programming package like every single other service. It remained a standalone addin.
As a result, I think it’s fair to say that EPIX hasn’t been as popular as it could have been. AT&T doesn’t put out subscription numbers for its individual services. So, regular folks like me and you will never know how popular EPIX is or isn’t.
It doesn’t matter as long as you like it
Now’s your chance to decide if EPIX is for you. The service is free for all DIRECTV customers today through February 22. You’ll find the three EPIX channels on channels 558-560. The service shares a lot of content with streaming services like Hulu and Prime Video, but has a few noteworthy original series, too.
EPIX has also been the home for movies that will… eventually… make their way to mainstream streaming services. EPIX premiered Bumblebee, for example, and held onto it for four months before it was widely available on any streaming service. They’re about to get the exclusive on Rocketman, too. You can catch its premiere for free on Saturday, the last night of the preview.
What does the future hold for premium services in general?
That’s really the question. About a decade ago I forecast a collapse of premium services. Even before the coming of streaming, I said it was just unnecessary to have so much duplicate content. Having an east coast feed and a west coast feed, as so many channels do, was no longer necessary in the days of the DVR.
That collapse didn’t happen… yet. Although, it still might. Today all the major premium channels are available a la carte over streaming, and sometimes for bundle prices lower than satellite. More interestingly, we’re starting to see a reversal of a key trend.
Streaming first, satellite second?
While you absolutely could get premium content over streaming, the truth is you couldn’t get all of it all the time. For example, Cinemax’s streaming was limited to mobile devices, and there was no MaxGo app for streaming boxes. Similarly, there wasn’t a streaming presence for The Movie Channel, although some of that content was found on the Showtime app.
We’re starting to see a change there. AT&T’s execs announced last month that Cinemax will no longer have original programming, and that the brand “won’t transfer to HBO Max.” It’s not clear what that means but I take it to mean that eventually, Cinemax will disappear.
At the sametime, ViacomCBS is said to be working on consolidating Showtime and CBS All Access content, and it’s not clear where this leaves The Movie Channel.
It’s possible that HBO Max will be the first of a new wave of super-streaming services that will eventually move front and center, displacing premium channels in the hearts of regular viewers. In fact it’s possible we’re already there.
But it’s really all about that business
Business viewers are the ones who have kept Cinemax and The Movie Channel in business, and they’re the ones that have kept premium channels going for years. It’s almost a given, even today in 2020, that you won’t get good Wi-Fi or even good cell service when you’re in a hotel. Hotels could fix this problem but most don’t. That keeps the demand for traditional TV high, and it keeps those types of customers subscribing to premium channels.
And for that reason, I don’t see premium content on satellite TV going anywhere. As I said, some of those secondary or duplicate channels might fade away over time. I certainly think the marketing will highlight the streaming stuff, but the quiet, meat and potatoes of the market will still be on good, old traditional pay TV.
In the meantime, check out the EPIX free preview now. If you like the service, subscribe by going to DIRECTV.com or ATT.com, or by calling Solid Signal at 888-233-7563.