Next TV: What Epix's Greenberg Learned From Don King

Santa Monica, Calif.—Recalling his time years ago working in the pay-per-view business, Epix CEO Mark Greenberg described a dinner that he had once with boxing promoter Don King. Greenberg had just returned from Israel, where he had visited the Western Wall, which prompted a brainstorm from King—to stage a fight in Israel and promote it as “The Brawl at the Wall.” The idea was overheard by a waiter, who related it to the kitchen staff, and reported back to Greenberg and King that the it was a winner.

“See, we aren’t just selling an event,” King told Greenberg. “We’re selling an experience.”

In his keynote address Tuesday at the Next TV Summit in Santa Monica, as well as a Q&A that followed with Multichannel News technology editor Jeff Baumgartner, Greenberg returned several times to the theme of television as an experience that must put customer convenience at the forefront.

As an example of a way in which Epix—a premium network and joint venture of Viacom, MGM and Lionsgate—is attempting to follow that directive, Greenberg cited the network’s Screening Room app, which allows Epix subscribers to invite friends to view programming with them in a live chat room.

Greenberg also stressed the importance of embracing TV Everywhere and making it easier to use. Baumgartner asked for a show of hands as to how many audience members know how to log in to TV Everywhere services, prompting a small smattering of arms to to go up.

“It’s not user friendly,” Greenberg said of TV Everywhere. “We have to put the consumer at the center of our business.”

Greenberg noted that the average subscriber for HBO and Showtime is 49 years old, and estimated that that number could rise to 59 within the next 10 years. He warned of what could become of the TV industry if it continues to treat younger viewers who embrace digital consumption as “barbarians who must be kept away from the gates,” noting that Epix’s offices in Times Square are situated across from a storefront that used to house a Virgin Megastore and is now a Forever 21.

“I’d argue that the music industry missed giving that audience wants,” he said. “That audience wants what they want on their own terms.”