Comcast Scaring Up Viewers

Jan 22, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Diane Robina, president of emerging networks for Comcast, lost the bet for the Chucky doll.

But she got something better-the video-on-demand network she runs came out of the gate with 7 million VOD views the first month it launched, more than double the 3 million she bet her team that it would garner.

FEARNet, a free horror film VOD service from Comcast, Sony and Lionsgate, launched on Comcast’s VOD service Oct. 31 and generated 7.2 million views of its movies in November, with another 6 million in December. Those are impressive numbers for a VOD service, placing FEARNet in the top 10 of 180 total VOD categories on Comcast in both of those months.

Also, those numbers outpace how free horror films fared as a category on Comcast VOD prior to November 2006, Ms. Robina said. Previously, horror films were logging about 1.5 million to 2 million views per month. In addition, 35 percent of all the free movies watched on Comcast VOD in December were on FEARNet, she said.

She attributes the big bump to the fact that FEARNet wraps the movies into a distinct brand.

“You tap into an audience, you create a brand, you give it a name,” she said.

FEARNet has been sharing these early numbers with advertisers as the network looks to strike deals for sponsors. Ms. Robina said she hopes to have deals in place for the service’s first few advertisers by the end of this quarter. Ads will be limited but will likely include pre-roll spots and some intermission-style ads.

“We made a decision not to sell anything for 2006 so we could launch the service. We hit the street in November because we had real numbers,” she said.

FEARNet features about 70 hours, or 35 movies, at any given time on VOD. The network also includes an Internet component offering short and long films online. The Web site drew about 275,000 unique visitors in November and 650,000 video views, Ms. Robina said. By the end of this quarter, FEARNet plans to include a bigger video player and user-generated content.

Horror and sci-fi fans are among the most fanatic TV viewers and actively seek out content in these genres, said Paul Rule, president of VOD research firm Marquest Research.

“For horror fans, this new technology is like telling the goats where to find the hay whenever they want a snack,” he said. His research shows that interest in using VOD for sci-fi and horror content peaks among teens ages 12-24 and among men ages 18-49.

“This seems like it might be a great time to own the rights to a bunch of slasher flicks,” he said.