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Chiller: More Killer Originals

NBCUniversal’s horror-themed Chiller is looking to build on the growing popularity of the genre with a slate of original programming set to debut this year and in early 2016 that includes its first-ever scripted series, Slasher. Chiller and Syfy president David Howe tells Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the network’s progression as it seeks to scare up young, female viewers.

MCN:How do you define the Chiller brand?

Dave Howe: We continue to be excited about the success of Chiller. It continues to be a powerhouse brand, and I think it’s tapping into an explosively growing genre. If you look across the entire media landscape from movies to TV series to straight-to- DVD movies, [the horror genre] speaks to the millennial generation, who are up for very visceral, challenging content, and they want something that is an experience that takes them into an extreme place. I think Chiller, and its ability to scare people — the network’s brand positioning is “scary good” — is a helpful place to be as an aggregate for the genre. I think as we figure out how to grow the network beyond just being a linear platform and we tap more into original movies and build out into digital and VOD, I think this is a brand that absolutely has a great future — we just have to unlock its potential.

MCN:You mentioned millennials — is that the target audience for the network?

DH: Right now Chiller’s older-skewing audience is a product of its distribution. [The network’s feed] is still in standard definition, which is in mostly older households, and the younger, more upscale houses are in the HD and digital space. But that is just one area of the brand. If you look at our original content and the original movies, I think you can see the potential because the genre skews young and female. If you look at our biggest movie to date, the Drew Barrymore movie Animal — it skewed 61% female. So we can absolutely tap into that younger millennial generation as we get more HD distribution, and I think we’re just about to launch the Chiller signal in HD, and that will start to bring our demographic down.

MCN:How much original content will we see on Chiller?

DH: We’re like a coiled spring here — we’re ready to ramp up content development to the point where we really start to monetize it. I still think in TV the genre is underserved compared to the appetite that the audience has for it, so I think we can easily ramp up to original movies and our first original series. You can expect that we will add to it every year as we start to build out the brand going forward.

MCN:What does adding your first original series,Slasher, later this year bring to the brand?

DH: It’s really our first toe in the water in creating that weekly appointment viewing at a time when not everyone is watching on a weekly basis. As a result we’ll exploit the whole binge viewing potential and figure out more creative ways to launch it when we get there. But I think it speaks to long-form storytelling and the ability to tell stories in this space, which will give us an ability to create a loyal audience. This is an anthology series, so we have a framework for the series, but each season it will launch in a different direction, so I think it has a lot of things going for it. We’re excited to put it on air and to watch it grow. We will air it on Syfy and we’ll figure out how to cross-promote it in a big way. We haven’t talked to USA, but they’re very open to genre [content], increasingly, as you’ll see in this upfront.

MCN:There are a lot of networks also playing in this genre. What do you make of the competition?

DH: People always ask how we feel about the competition, and I think it’s great for our perspective — you’re just growing the appetite for the genre, whether it’s horror or sci-fi/fantasy. The more people who are sampling and watching this stuff, the more they realize that they do have an appetite for genre content. I think all you’re doing is growing the marketplace and growing the potential audience for the future. So I say, bring it on — it just means that we have to be more selective about how we work around it scheduling wise.

MCN:What plans do you have for Chiller on the digital front?

DH: We’re very close to figuring out the VOD play for Chiller… I think is growing. The great thing for Chiller as a whole is it’s growing in terms of its TV and online audience, and that’s very unique. As we ramp up our original content, we’ll also ramp up our ability to create a 360-degree experience and adjacent experiences on the digital platform.

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.