In a wide ranging tie-up with Starz Encore Media, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) has made one of the most dramatic moves by any studio to push its content into new on-line media.

The deal which begins in 2005 spans more than 200 current feature films from the Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics stables and includes over 1,000 library titles. The deal is also seen as a major boost for subscription video-on-demand (SVOD), a pay-per-view format providing unlimited viewing after payment of a monthly fee, which SPE has previously endorsed. "SPE was the natural choice for this partnership as we share the same vision of how theatrical movies will be distributed in the new millennium," said Starz chairman and CEO John Sie.

There appears to be considerable give and take between the two and a decision to keep distribution options as open as possible. In a statement the two companies said: "[the deal] gives SPE the flexibility to distribute its films on the Internet via video-on-demand and video downloading during the Starz Encore window. Correspondingly Starz Encore is granted rights to provide both its traditional scheduled programming and SVOD on the Internet and via video downloading."

Specifically the deal gives Starz Encore six years of exclusive, first-run pay-TV rights in the US from the three SPE stables. It includes immediate SVOD and future Internet rights to the 200 films anticipated as being licensed in the period.

It also allows Starz Encore to extend its current pay-TV licence for second run pictures. This is expected to cover 100 movies from the 1993-98 theatrical season including Jerry Maguire, Men In Black and Sleepless In Seattle and will be concurrent with the third pay window of Starz Encore's current SPE deal.

Starz also gets to license 1,000 older titles including Taxi Driver, Groundhog Day and Boyz'N The Hood.

"The agreement underscores our position as the 'go to' provider of major theatricals on pay-TV and turbo charges the recently announced Starz Encore PuperPak of 12 channels packaged for the digital revolution," said Sie.