Get ready for a new premium TV channel

If you were following the news this weekend you already know that Ty’s big merger news wasn’t the only exciting joint venture being cooked up last week. It turns out that a few little studios you may have heard of before (ha!) were working together, too—Viacom, Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM will be launching a new television channel:

The venture, starting in fall 2009, will show movies and television series from Paramount, Paramount Vantage, MGM, United Artists and Lionsgate.

It could provide competition in both programming and viewers to Time Warner’s HBO and CBS Corp.’s Showtime.

“This venture has the potential to be a game changer for the industry,” Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman said in a statement. “We are building an innovative service that will use traditional and new digital distribution technologies to bring great film and television entertainment directly to the consumer.”

Viewers will have pay-per-view access to big-budget releases from the studios, such as “Cloverfield,” “Iron Man” and “Star Trek.” Movies from the companies’ archive libraries and new TV series created by the studios also will be featured.

How the details of this new channel will actually shake out remains to be seen, but already analysis of the players and impassioned pleas for specific programming have already begun.

It’s probably wrong that I’m just delighted to be anticipating what could be a genuine threat to HBO’s king-of-the-hill status. Competition is good all around—it makes the old giants get better and makes the new contenders raise the bar. Plus, I just love a good fight. Especially when it results in great television.

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