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2 Film Studios, Comcast to Start Horror Channel

Fearnet, to be available online and on cable as video on demand, is to use the film libraries of Lions Gate and Sony.

September 19, 2006|Lorenza Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Call it fright on demand.

Lions Gate Entertainment, Sony Pictures Television and Comcast Corp. plan to launch a video channel on Halloween devoted entirely to horror programs.

The new channel, called Fearnet, is to be available on cable as video on demand. It also is to be available on the Internet and through wireless systems.

The channel's target audience is men and boys from 14 to 29 years old.

Sony and Lions Gate are the two top players in the genre, with combined libraries adding up to about 50% of the horror titles in the market, according to industry sources.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 21, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Horror channel: An article in Tuesday's Business section about the launch of a horror network by Lions Gate Entertainment, Sony Pictures Television and Comcast Corp. said NBC Universal had acquired the Horror Channel. The channel is owned by New Jersey-based Terrorvision Television.

Partnering with Comcast gives them access to the world's largest cable operator, which serves about 23 million subscribers.

The three companies each hold a one-third equity stake in the venture, according to a source familiar with the deal.

Sony's horror films include "The Grudge" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," while Lions Gate distributed such films as "Saw," "Saw II" and "Hostel."

Horror films are one of the most profitable segments of the film market. Many of the movies are made at relatively low cost, and often sell well on DVD.

Lions Gate has found an especially lucrative niche with low-budget horror films. The "Saw" franchise has grossed more than $250 million worldwide, and "The Grudge" has brought in more than $187 million.

In October, Lions Gate is to release "Saw III" and Sony is to release "The Grudge 2."

The idea to launch a horror channel began with Sony and Comcast's role as partners in the acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer nearly three years ago. The companies approached Lions Gate this year when the independent studio announced it planned to start its own horror channel.

Plans for Fearnet call for it to offer mainly movies from studio libraries but also some original content such as short films.

In addition, there are plans to reach out to horror genre directors for a program called Masters of Fear.

Because of content and ratings concerns, Comcast intends to apply parental controls to the channel's edgier content.

Fearnet will face some competition from the Horror Channel, which was recently acquired by NBC Universal and is distributed through the company's broadband arm, nbbc. NBC Universal also owns the highly profitable Sci Fi cable channel, which mixes science fiction and fantasy with some horror programming.

Santa Monica-based Lions Gate, one of the few remaining independent film studios, has been very successful with its cable television ventures, with revenue growing to $133 million in fiscal 2006 from $83 million the previous fiscal year.

"We have always liked the idea of a horror channel," said Thomas W. Eagan, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. "It will allow the company to monetize its library of horror films."

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lorenza.munoz@latimes.com

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