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Lionsgate in Talks to Sell Epix Stake to MGM, Viacom

Lionsgate is in talks to sell its 31% stake in the premium cable channel Epix to its partners in the venture, MGM and Viacom.

Lionsgate had previously signaled its intention to divest its stake in Epix, which launched as a joint venture of the three studios in 2008, following its acquisition last month of premium cable group Starz. News of the formal talks beginning was first reported Thursday by Reuters.

Viacom owns the largest share of Epix at around 49% while MGM has the smallest interest. Epix was formed at a time when Viacom, MGM and Lionsgate opted to launch their own pay TV outlet after ending their respective output deal relationships for theatrical features with Showtime. Epix carries the theatrical output of the three studios, and last year it accelerated its push into original series with the launch of the spy drama “Berlin Station” and Nick Nolte comedy “Graves.”

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer acknowledged that the studio was likely to make a change in its Epix partnership after it set the initial agreement to buy Starz.

“The fact of the matter is, at 31 percent, Epix is not a truly strategic platform for us,” Feltheimer told Wall Street analysts in June.

There had been speculation that Epix might be bought out entirely by Viacom or sold by the three partners to another buyer entirely.

Lionsgate and MGM declined comment. A rep for Viacom could not immediately be reached for comment.

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