Horror Streamer Shudder Turns Five
GM Craig Engler conjures up momentum for scary AMC-owned service
Horror-themed streaming service Shudder seems to have conjured up some positive business spirits heading into the Halloween season. The AMC-owned subscription VOD platform passed 1 million subscribers last month as it continues to build on its original programming portfolio that includes such scripted series as Creepshow and Cursed Films.
Already in the Halloween spirit, the service has launched several new holiday projects, including a 24/7 Ghoul Log featuring a streaming jack-o’-lantern, as well as Halloween specials surrounding Creepshow and its original unscripted series The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs.
Shudder general manager Craig Engler spoke to Multichannel News about the streaming service’s recent distribution success, its continued commitment to original programming and its strategy to deal with increasing competition within the horror TV genre. Here’s an edited version of the interview.
MCN: At the five-year mark, is Shudder where you expected it to be at this point in its evolution?
Craig Engler: We’ve realized our projections and then we exceed our revisions. So we are in a very lucky position of doing fantastically well right now.
MCN: To what do you attribute the service’s success up to this point?
CE: I think it’s a combination of the original content we've been rolling out. Shows like Creepshow and Cursed Films, as well as our original movies like Host and The Room, have been doing fantastic for us. We offer two original or exclusive movies a month at a minimum, and during this Halloween season, which is really August, September and October, we basically do one original or exclusive movie a week. Our original series, including Creepshow, Cursed Films, Discovery of Witches and The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs, are all returning next year for new seasons, as well as new titles that we haven't announced for next year. We also just picked up [The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula] given the fact that Netflix decided not to continue the series, but we’re going to continue with it.
MCN: Did the pandemic and stay at home orders actually aid in driving viewers to Shudder?
CE: Yes, absolutely. I think the interest in SVODs has surged as people have been staying home and looking for different types of entertainment. They’re willing to give content that they haven’t tried before a shot. Once we get somebody in the door, we tend to keep them because we have a breadth and a depth of horror, supernatural, and thriller content that can't be matched.
MCN: Is Shudder’s recent success also a testament to the growing popularity of the horror genre?
CE: It is a great time for the genre. There’s never been as much interest in the genre as there is now. Horror goes in waves. Everybody forgets that when all the classic Universal [monster] movies came out way back when — or all the ’70s and ’80s movies like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby — they were huge for the overall movie industry. But what you’re seeing now is in addition to the horror movies, you’re also seeing a lot more horror series, and I think people are really starting to gravitate towards the genre. I don’t think there’s ever been a time where there’s been this many horror series, and people are rediscovering the genre and taking it to places where it hasn’t been before. It’s really an exciting time. Whereas a lot of the other genres tend to get a little bit stale from time to time, horror seems to reinvent itself.
MCN: How does Shudder intend to continue to increase its subscriber base in a crowded digital streaming environment?
CE: That’s a great question. One of the things that we’ve recently done is we expanded into Australia and New Zealand. We’ve also expanded the number of platforms we’re on. A year ago we weren’t on Apple channels, we weren’t on Dish, we weren’t on Sling and we didn’t have our own Roku Channel. I think that the biggest thing that you can do to get the word out is to offer bigger, better content.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.