Fifth Estater

Negotiating Epix Deals

Greenberg builds premium channel’s business with digital in mind 1/31/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Mark Greenberg

Title:
President and CEO, Epix

Education:
B.A., Providence College; MBA, Columbia U.

Employment:
Dun & Bradstreet, business analyst, divisional operations manager, 1978–82
HBO, account manager, affiliate relations; marketing manager, direct marketing, 1982–89
Showtime Networks, executive VP, senior VP, marketing VP/direct marketing, 1989–2006 MSGCI, managing dir., 2006–08
Current title: May 2008

Personal:
b. Aug 30, 1956; wife Tami; sons Daniel, 20, and Matthew, 18; daughter Kate, 13

Epix CEO Mark Greenberg loves a good deal. Since
Epix—the premium channel formed in 2008 by
Viacom, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and MGMdecided last summer to play ball with
Netflix by allowing the service to stream
its movies 90 days after they premiere
on Epix, Greenberg’s negotiating skills
have been put to the test.

Worried about over-the-top digital distribution,
some cable and satellite operators
have frozen out Epix, but Greenberg
is convinced they will soon warm up.

Greenberg recalls that theater owners
thought HBO would destroy their
business. Later, cable operators didn’t
want programmers doing business with
satellite or with the telcos. “Every time
we have these changes, the incumbents
don’t like it, which I understand. But that
competition always made every platform
better,” Greenberg says. “You want to find
an economically viable place that still fits
an equilibrium for the traditional players,
which we have, protect their windows,
which we have, and give them certain
advantages. And now it’s a competition
of marketing. What’s wrong with that?”

Netflix was an issue Greenberg
negotiated with Dave Shull, senior
VP of programming for Dish Network.
“Mark reassured me that I was
going to be able to offer my customers
a really compelling product, and basically
what he’s offering me is at least
as good as what he’s offering Netflix,”
Shull said. “Mark was persistent and
kept coming back with new creative
angles and that pulled it off in the end.”

Greenberg started his TV career in
1982 at HBO, working in affiliate sales
and marketing. Seven years later, he
moved to Showtime, rising to executive
VP for strategic planning and development.
He launched Showtime’s
On Demand and HDTV services and
oversaw Showtime Event Television,
which produced four of the biggest pay-per-view events in cable history,
including the infamous boxing match
in which Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of
Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Being in boxing meant negotiating
with flamboyant promoter Don King.
King calls Greenberg a friend who
could be counted on to honor handshake
deals. “He was innovative, imaginative
and progressive, with ambitious
taste and insatiable desire for success,”
King says. The promoter recalls that he
and Greenberg had set a date for the Tyson–
Holyfield bout, but that Greenberg
said he wouldn’t be able to attend because
his wife was expecting the birth
of their daughter. King moved the fight.
“The event was big enough to substantiate
itself no matter what day it was on,
but the family thing, if you blow that, you don’t get the second chance. That
shows you the stature and the esteem
that I held him in,” King says.

Greenberg left Showtime in 2006 and
did some consulting for clients including
Blockbuster, Comcast and Lionsgate.
He developed a business model for a
multiplatform service with Blockbuster,
but the video rental company pulled
out. He then helped negotiate a joint
venture agreement that formed Epix,
with Netflix eventually taking the role
Blockbuster would have played.

“It was important for the studios to be
able to own the distribution platform as
technology evolves,” says Greenberg. “So
we brought the venture forward, and the
three studios and Viacom recognized that
strategically it was the right thing to do.”

The studios unanimously chose
Greenberg to run the venture. The decision
has paid dividends. “He’s got a grasp
of technology and the digital world,” says
Jon Feltheimer, Lionsgate CEO and a
member of Epix’s board. “He’s a strong
distribution executive, he has good marketing
instincts and good programming
skills. So we thought he had all the characteristics
we were looking for.” Noting
that Epix is already cash-flow positive
and earnings-positive, Feltheimer adds:
“He’s doing a very good job.”

When not at work, Greenberg spends
time with his family. He and his wife,
Tami, met while both worked at HBO.
Now a big part of his life is watching
their three children play sports.

Greenberg played basketball in high
school, but now golf is his game, and his
20-year-old son Daniel is his golf partner.
They don’t keep score, but “we’re
at that point where he out-drives me by
about 30 yards on every hole, so I have
to make it up with the short game.”

E-mail comments to jlafayette@nbmedia.com and follow him on
Twitter: @jlafayette

Mark Greenberg

Title:
President and CEO, Epix

Education:
B.A., Providence College; MBA, Columbia U.

Employment:
Dun & Bradstreet, business analyst, divisional operations manager, 1978–82
HBO, account manager, affiliate relations; marketing manager, direct marketing, 1982–89
Showtime Networks, executive VP, senior VP, marketing VP/direct marketing, 1989–2006 MSGCI, managing dir., 2006–08
Current title: May 2008

Personal:
b. Aug 30, 1956; wife Tami; sons Daniel, 20, and Matthew, 18; daughter Kate, 13

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