Cable Operators

FearNet Bets on Marquee Thrillers

10/24/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Halloween marks the first anniversary
of upstart horror channel FearNet, but the network is already
looking ahead to its sophomore campaign with the
recent acquisition of several marquee
horror film titles, including
Quarantine and the Saw franchise,
set to air over the next year.

The Comcast, Sony Pictures
and Lionsgate-owned service —
currently in more than 4 million
households and more than 27 million
video-on-demand homes —
will also look to boost its original
programming slate with the 2012
launch of its first original series,
Holliston, as part of its “Twisted
Comedy” primetime programming
block.

FearNet president Peter Block
said the 24-hour channel expects
to drive distribution with more
marquee programming that will
appeal to its core 18-49 audience
that’s split evenly between males
and females.

CARRIAGE DEALS COMING

Block said the network is expected to announce several
carriage deals with operators over the next couple of
months for both the linear channel and the five-yearold
VOD service, though he would not disclose specifics.
FearNet currently has long-term deals with Time Warner
Cable and Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV.

As part of its programming upgrade, the 24-hour linear
channel will continue to feature acquired theatrical
titles and independent horror titles, including broadcast
premieres of the Phantasm franchise, Texas Chainsaw
Massacre: The Next Generation
, District 9, The Exorcism of
Emily Rose
, The Ruins and Trick ‘r Treat, as well as independent
movies like Frozen, The Disappearance of Alice Creed,
Hatchet and Grace.

“We wanted to offer movies that people had heard of
and either wanted to see or see again, along with independent
hits and cult favorites,” Block said. “I think we’re really
showcasing a wide variety of movies that will appeal
to casual consumers, as well as genre fans.”

On the original-programming side, the network will
launch next year its first original series, Holliston, which
follows two friends chasing the dream of becoming successful
horror-movie filmmakers while struggling to make
ends meet in their post-college jobs at a Boston cable-access
station. Holliston stars Adam Green (Hatchet 1 & 2,
Frozen) and Joe Lynch (Knights of Badassdom, Wrong Turn
2), who also are the show’s directors.

Holliston will join two other acquired shows in a Tuesday-
night block of comedies: Todd and the Book of Pure
Evil
, a supernatural comedy from Canada about a smalltown
high-school kid trying to save the world from the
dark powers of a mysterious book, and Psychoville, a
U.K.-produced black comedy about a group of characters
haunted by a mysterious blackmailer.

Block said the comedies give viewers a variety of programming
options to watch within the horror genre. “It
was always my intention to come in and do something that
complements our movies and make people see that we’re
not just offering blood and guts. Our audience wants to
laugh, so to do a show in the same fashion as a lot of our
movies didn’t make much sense to me.”

Block said he’s not concerned about the success of
horror-themed programming on mainstream cable
networks such as AMC’s The Walking Dead and FX’s
American Horror Story
, or the proliferation of paranormal-
themed reality series, like Syfy’s Ghost Hunters,
overshadowing FearNet’s offerings. (See Cover Story.)

FIVE-MINUTE PREVIEWS

“Those shows help us on a number of levels: they solidify
the fact that we know there’s an audience for this type of
content and they also express that fact to distributors and
advertisers who otherwise may not be wary of that,” he
said. “What’s good for the business is good for our business.
If you like the hour of AMC’s Walking Dead or FX’s
American Horror Story, why not come over to FearNet the
rest of the time?”

As part of its birthday celebration, FearNet will launch
an online initiative, dubbed “Fearful First Five,” which allows
viewers to watch the first five minutes of every film
on FearNet’s linear and VOD schedule via fearnet.com, according
to network officials.

The network will also create original interstitial programming
around various movie titles as part of its
“Movies With More Brains” programming stunt, while its
“Sinister Sundays” programming block will feature network
and TV premiere events, said the network.

September