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Digital Platforms Are Feeling the Fear

Cable networks have scared up some original horror-themed digital projects, now streaming online in time for Halloween.

Alongside original zombie-themed series The Walking Dead — which drew 11.4 million viewers to its Oct. 22 season-eight premiere episode — AMC has also launched several new original documentaries and specials through Shudder, its horror, thriller and suspense-themed subscription streaming service.

Related: What Are We So Afraid of?

The service premiered The Core: Halloween Special on Oct. 26. It takes a behind the scenes look at the popular Halloween theatrical film franchise, Shudder general manager Linda Pan said.

Shudder, which launched in 2016, had earlier debuted its first documentary series, Primal Screen, about how people are simultaneously attracted to and repelled by what scares them the most. Shudder is also developing several scripted series expected to debut in 2018, including Riprore, which follows a brutal homicide investigation in Los Angeles that uncovers a darkness that leads to the end of days; and The Blondes, in which blonde women afflicted with an unexplained disease turn into rabid monsters at any moment.

“For us original programming is super important as part of our programming strategy,” Pan said. “We know that our target audience is interested in getting programming from creators that they know and respect, so really look to develop original programming that isn’t going to be available anywhere else for this fan base.”

BET has tapped the horror genre to launch its first digital scripted series, The Last One. The five-episode series, which fittingly debuted this month on Friday the 13th, follows four friends who meet up with a mysterious stranger after getting stranded on the road, according to network officials. vice president of editorial Jermaine Hall said the success of horror-based content, including Jordan Peele’s breakout theatrical film Get Out, convinced the network that the horror genre was perfect to facilitate its initial play into original digital series.

“We saw with the success of Get Out, that our audiences were clamoring for that kind of content,” he said. “We really wanted to capitalize on the film and the genre’s popularity, and the script that we came up with is inherent to the black experience.”

While admitting the viewership for The Last One has been a “slow build” since its debut, Hall said he expects the numbers to increase this week with the attention given to Halloween.

The Last One, though, faces stiff competition from other streaming services offering horror-themed content heading into Halloween. Netflix this past Friday launched the second season of Emmy-nominated series Stranger Things, while Hulu has debuted the second season of its zombie-themed original horror series Freakish. Amazon on Friday, Oct. 13, launched its original anthology series Lore, based on Aaron Mahnke’s popular podcast.

Shudder’s Pan said the horror genre’s appeal — which draws in men and women across age demographics — will extend well beyond Halloween.

“Ultimately the best horror and thriller entertainment are ones that are visceral dramas that really tap into an audience’s need to be provoked and excited and to have a cathartic experience,” she said.