Epix has scaled another distribution hurdle, signing a deal with AT&T’s U-verse service that will add 5.7 million households to its subscriber base.

The pact covers four channels and extends the availability of Epix’s broadband offerings into U-verse homes. The deal also improves the possibility that Epix will get a carriage agreement with DirecTV at long last, as AT&T is in the midst of trying to complete a merger with DirecTV.

“We know that AT&T holds innovation and the consumer experience in the highest regard and we are very pleased to embark on this new relationship,” said Mark Greenberg, Epix prexy-CEO. “Working together with AT&T provides Epix with access to consumers nationwide and brings Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster films, documentaries, concerts and comedy specials to a brand new audience.”

The pending merger between AT&T and DirecTV likely helped grease the wheels for the U-verse pact, as AT&T needs to convince federal regulators that it won’t use its added heft to squeeze out smaller players in the TV biz.

Epix — the pay TV joint venture of Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM — has had an uphill climb with larger MVPDs such as DirecTV and Comcast Corp. since its 2009 debut. Stymied by the largest MVPDs, Epix inked an output deal with Netflix in 2010. That made it a harder sell to traditional cable, satellite and telco operators. But it has slowly but surely gained ground in the past few years.

“We know our customers want great movies and we are committed to providing a great selection. We look forward to working with Epix to provide our customers the broadest access to the EPIX lineup of top quality movies and original programming across all platforms,” said Aaron Slator, AT&T’s president of content and advertising sales.

Epix at present is available in about 50 million homes. The deal with U-verse begins today and will include a free preview from July 25-27.