Lionsgate topper touts TV Guide deal

Feltheimer says all content could move to cabler

BANFF, Alberta — With Lionsgate’s purchase of TV Guide Network for $255 million earlier this year, CEO Jon Feltheimer can see the day when much of his studio’s programming moves directly to the cable net.

“You have to protect your turf,” Feltheimer said during the opening address of the Banff Television Festival in the Canadian Rockies. “We could bring all our content there.”

Lionsgate currently has Emmy-winning “Mad Men” at AMC, plus “Weeds” and new series “Nurse Jackie” at Showtime. He didn’t clarify if he would move existing shows to TV Guide Network or just launch shows there in the future.

Although some have said the DVD biz is stalling, Feltheimer was bullish on DVD income as Lionsgate has a substantial library and generates plenty of coin from disc sales. He said the release of the fourth season of “Weeds” sold 50,000 units on its first day on sale last Tuesday. Overall sales of the entire run of “Weeds” on DVD have netted the studio $50 million.

Feltheimer estimated that Lionsgate would earn $300 million in 2009 from its TV division.

Even though “Mad Men” doesn’t reach a mass audience on a level of broadcast net hits, Feltheimer said AMC’s premium license fee and international sales make the show profitable. Lionsgate recently finished a deal with showrunner Matthew Weiner, and when asked to describe the negotiations that some had called contentious, Feltheimer called them “long.”

On the subject of video-on-demand and day-and-date delivery of bigscreen theatricals — an area Mark Cuban and Steven Soderbergh have explored most recently with “The Girlfriend Experience” — Feltheimer offered that the current price points may be too low on a big-budget film and he could see a time when $50 would be an acceptable figure for consumers, who would watch on a 50-plus inch screen at home and invite friends, and for studios.

Feltheimer added that he wouldn’t be surprised to see both Google and YouTube start charging for TV content in the near future.