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Netflix inks exclusive U.K. streaming deal with Lionsgate

Netfilx will be offering Lionsgate films to customers in the U.K. and Ireland early next year when it launches its streaming service in those countries.

Netflix now has a key partner it can count on as the company prepares to enter the European market.

Lionsgate today announced that it has signed an agreement with Netflix that will make the rental company the exclusive provider of its first-run films streaming in the U.K. and Ireland. However, as with previous deals Netflix has signed with studios, Lionsgate won't immediately provide the films to the streaming provider. Instead, Lionsgate's new and upcoming titles, including "The Hunger Games" and "The Expendables 2," will make their debut on Netflix "within one year of their theatrical release."

"Saw 3D" and "The Mechanic," among several other films from the Lionsgate library, will be made available on Netflix when the service launches.

Netflix announced plans to bring its streaming service to the U.K. and Ireland last month. So far, the company hasn't announced an exact release date, but it has promised to make it available in early 2012.

Netflix's jump across the pond is the latest effort on the company's part to prove that it can be successful around the world. In September, Netflix expanded to 43 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. That move followed last year's jump to Canada.

However, in the U.K., Netflix will be met with some competition. Currently, Lovefilm, another company that provides streaming and DVD rentals, offers its service in the U.K., Germany, Sweden, and elsewhere around Europe. More importantly, Lovefilm was acquired by Amazon earlier this year, potentially paving the way for a bitter European battle between the tech giants.

That said, the Lionsgate deal could be an issue for Amazon's streaming service. As noted, Lionsgate has given Netflix exclusive streaming rights to its content, and according to the companies, that deal will be in place for multiple years.