Showtime Networks Inc. plans in March to launch a 24-hour premium channel exclusively featuring action-adventure films, including several (such as the James Bond film “GoldenEye”) making their pay-cable debut.

Channel, which will be called Showtime Extreme, is another of the growing list of services getting an early jump in anticipation of cable’s switchover to digital delivery from analog, a move that will expand channel space as much as sixfold.

In fact, the announcement of Showtime Extreme will bring the number of Showtime Networks services to eight: Showtime, Showtime 2, Showtime 3, Showtime Extreme, the Movie Channel, Movie Channel 2, Flix and Sundance. All eight carry separate East Coast and West Coast feeds, while Showtime and Movie Channel recently added Mountain Time feeds as well.

“That means our multiplex has 18 separate screens,” said Jeff Wade, executive VP sales and affiliate marketing for Showtime Networks.

Services are now available primarily to those who subscribe to such direct broadcast satellite services as DirecTV, EchoStar and Primestar.

Limited to library product

While Encore Media Group already programs an all-action channel as part of its Multiplex, Wade stressed Tuesday that the competitive service is “limited to library product,” and labeled Showtime Extreme as “the only first-window premium channel dedicated to action programming in the marketplace.”

Showtime continues to lag behind such competitors as HBO and Starz! in studio license deals, but promises to augment the Showtime Extreme mix with original movies fresh from their premieres on Showtime and Movie Channel. Its lineup of theatricals will include such titles as “Absolute Power,” “Get Shorty,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Street Gun,” “Above the Law” and “Robocop 3.”

Channel will not by itself carry an additional fee to subscribers but will always be offered as part of a multiplex tier.

“We did a lot of research where we asked people which film genre they enjoyed most,” Wade said. “We asked if they wanted comedies, drama, love stories, sci-fi, horror. And action-adventure always came out No. 1.

“Consumer demand for this type of programming is overwhelming. We feel that it adds a tremendous amount of value to our overall package.”

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