Community, data, news and, most of all, video will highlight FearNet, the on-demand horror channel Comcast is launching on Halloween. FearNet, a co-venture with Sony and Lionsgate, will debut as a video-on-demand channel free to Comcast digital customers, a website and a mobile offering, the first of several multi-platform networks Comcast plans to launch.
Online, FearNet will offer nine free streaming movies at launch which run on command - with no wait time - in a video player that looks like a slashed-open stomach. Extra features allow fans to chat with each other while a movie plays, as well as search a database enabled in part by imdb.com and tag films with topical labels in a community page. Visitors to the site can also, through Guba.com, purchase movies for rent or to own.
Comcast hopes to add original horror shorts to FearNet's website soon. A mobile component of the channel includes polling, news and information and screensavers.
The video-on-demand channel will feature some 200 titles at launch, including 4-6 HD titles a month and some in Spanish. They will all be free to view, supported by advertising such as pop-up bugs on the lower third of the screen. Also on the bottom of the screen will be network branding, more than exists on other VOD channels.
"We've tried a lot of ideas to brand the films with 'FearNet,'" says Diane Robina, president of Comcast's Emerging Networks. "We're building a brand as opposed to just titles being up there."
Comcast is launching FearNet at a time cable operators' crunch for bandwidth makes it nearly impossible to debut any new linear TV channel. The Philadelphia-based cable company plans several more multi-platform networks, but declined to disclose their topics. FearNet's revenue will mainly be generated from ads - pre- and post-roll, as well as banners - in addition to a percentage of the money from movie downloads.
Comcast is in "very preliminary talks" shopping the VOD component to other cable operators, Robina says. Comcast and Sony announced the network at a trade show for the cable industry earlier this year and later took on Lionsgate as a partner.
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