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Horror Net Scares Up Subs Online

November 29, 2004 12:00 AM

Few start-up cable networks have a Web site, much less a six-man team devoted to spreading their gospel online. Then again, most don't have the geek appeal of The Horror Channel, which is trying to raise money and find distribution for a programming service devoted to horror movies and TV shows. So far, raising capital has been a struggle, but the New Jersey-based start-up has been generating buzz online. "Our biggest imperative is to build a connection with the audience of hardcore horror enthusiasts," said Brian Nurenberg, the channel's president and chief operating officer, who was previously with the Burly Bear Network for college kids. "Because horror doesn't have a channel, that audience has resorted to the Internet for information and intelligence about the genre."

The founder is Nicholas Psaltos, former director of acquisition and program administration at Bravo, which is part of NBC Universal, owner of the Sci Fi Channel and potentially a big obstacle for The Horror Channel. NBC Universal is also considering launching a horror-themed channel, though there are no firm plans yet or a start date.

-JAMES HIBBERD

Brownback Is Back

While plans to raise the cap on fines for indecency on TV didn't fly in Congress this past year, conservative Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., isn't giving up. Earlier this month he tried to slip into a federal appropriations bill an increase in the FCC's maximum fine from $32,500 to $500,000 per incidence, but Senate Democrats managed to kill it. He may try again next week, but chances for quick passage are slim. Now he is plotting strategy for the next Congress. "It's much more likely that we'll take it up in January," said Brian Hart, a spokesman for the senator, who has gotten considerable political capital out of his anti-indecency efforts.

-DOUG HALONEN

Pre-Op in `ER'

NBC's "ER" has long been committed to promoting diversity in casting. Now an upcoming episode will break new ground when a transgendered actor plays a transgendered role. Chicago stage actress Alexandra Billings, who was born male but has identified as female since she was a child, plays a character in the Jan. 6 episode who comes into the County General ER with shortness of breath. When Dr. Ray Barnett (Shane West) gets test results showing she is pregnant, Ms. Billings' character reveals she's actually a pre-operative transgender, someone incapable of having a baby.

The surprised Dr. Barnett brings in veteran Dr. Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield), who ultimately diagnoses what's really wrong. Although "ER" wasn't specifically looking for a transgendered actress, Ms. Billings' manager, Billy Miller, saw an opportunity and had her send in a tape. Impressed, the show flew her out to the "ER" set at Warner Bros.

Studios in Burbank for the shoot. Mr. Miller said his client-who is back working in Chicago-had a great time, particularly with director Stephen Cragg, who helped refine her performance. "He knew what to tell her to get her where she needed to go," Mr. Miller said. "She had an amazing experience."

-CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA