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MGM HD Signs Up Time Warner Cable

MGM HD has secured a third major carriage agreement, locking up a deal with Time Warner Cable, officials said last week at The Cable Show here.

The Time Warner affiliation agreement comes on the heels of MGM HD securing carriage pacts with Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, and Dish Network, within a week of each other. Dish Network recently launched MGM HD as one of 22 HD networks the satellite provider is adding to its channel lineup.

MGM HD is an high-definition-only service from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. It launched last October when DirecTV rolled it out as part of an HD mini-pay tier, its DirecTV HD Extra Pack, a $4.99 a month offering that includes five HD-only services. Dish Network is also offering MGM HD on an HD-tier, its DishHD Ultimate offering at $10 a month.

MGM HD had a booth at The Cable Show, where it has a 103-inch HD TV set on hand to demonstrate the network. Last week, the network had “Bond girls” handing out martinis and po’boy sandwiches, reinforcing MGM’s James Bond franchise.

The network, drawing from a library of 4,100 films, claims it is only one of a handful of HD networks to offer content around the clock in true 1080i. Comcast’s HD customers will be able to get classic and contemporary films from MGM on both Comcast’s linear line-up as well as its video-on-demand service, which offers more than 10,000 selections each month.

“MGM HD will help attract new HD customers to Time Warner Cable and will also give our existing HD customers access to an even wider array of high-definition entertainment programming,” Time Warner’s executive vice president and chief programming officer, Melinda Witmer, said in a statement last week.

Douglas Lee, MGM’s executive vice president of Worldwide Digital Media, in an interview at The Cable Show declined to disclose how many subscribers MGM HD has. “We’re really growing and we’re exceeding our expectations,” he said. “We’re ahead of our business plan.”

The service also has an affiliation deal with Verizon Communications, which will launch it later this year on all its FiOS TV systems; with RCN and some other smaller cable operators.

Comcast is a 20% owner of MGM, but Lee said that MGM HD didn’t get any favorable treatment as a result of that relationship.

Programmers with standard-definition networks typically offer their HD simulcast services to distributors for free, but as an HD-only channel MGM HD charges a license fee. That’s why DirecTV puts its HD-only networks on a mini-pay tier with an extra charge.

“Of course, we want to get in front of as many subs as we can, because we built this thing to be an ad-supported service one day,” Lee said. “But right now, we’re just trying to get the distribution where we can. I think there’s a feeling amongst a lot of the operators that over time, just like with digital, these tiers will kind of melt away. So I think that’s our hope.”