Epix is launching a new feature that could make it easier than ever before to stream movies on your Internet-connected TV — Epix Cast, which allows you to find a movie in the mobile Epix app and then play it on your TV, even if the app hasn’t been installed on that TV.
I saw a demo of Epix Cast last week. While there are other services that can turn your phone into a connected TV remote, I was impressed by the simplicity of the Epix Cast experience. When you find a movie that you like in the app, there’s a “Tap to TV” option that will bring up a list of all the connected TVs and other media-streaming devices on your WiFi network. Select a device and your movie will start playing a few seconds later.
Epix says the feature works with smart TV models from LG, Sony, Vizio and other manufacturers, as well as Google Chromecast and Sony’s Internet-connected Blu-ray players. The company also plans to add support for Samsung smart TVs, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, TiVo and Xbox.
During the demo, we switched between multiple TVs, and each time, the movie picked up right where we’d left off. Epix Cast doesn’t just mirror the video that’s playing on your phone, but checks online to find the highest quality version that will work on your TV, said Chief Digital Officer Jon Dakss (who joined Epix from NBCUniversal last year).
The technology comes from Vizbee, a mostly under-the-radar startup that’s been building a platform for this very purpose. Vizbee CEO Darren Fehrer (who, like Dakss, used to work at NBCUniversal) argued that while mobile apps can offer a great way to find content, they’re not great for watching videos that are longer than a few minutes. So he wanted to create a seamless connection between the app and your TV.
Dakss added that this approach felt right for Epix, because while the network has started to experiment with its own original shows, the focus remains on big movies like Star Trek Beyond and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (to pick a couple examples from the “most watched” section).
“It was a no-brainer, based on our content,” Dakss said. “We’ve got the biggest movies out there in Hollywood, and they’re intended to be enjoyed on the best premium experience in your house.”
He also noted that while Epix has built apps for a variety of devices (including Xbox, Playstation, iOS and Android), this gives the network a streaming presence on even more TVs without having to build for each platform. That doesn’t mean Epix is abandoning its native app strategy, but Dakss said, “This now enables us to be a lot more selective.”
Epix was created by Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM in 2009 — they recently reached a deal for MGM to take full ownership. As for whether the network might follow the lead of HBO and others by offering a standalone subscription, separate from the full cable package, Dakss was noncommittal, only saying, “It’s an area that we continue to explore and look at.”