Scare Tactics: FearNet Isn’t Afraid of Multiplatform Marketing

By May 31, 2007

(Direct) To the meek, managing content across multiple channels can be a daunting — one might even say scary — task.

But Comcast wasn’t afraid of marketing plans going bump in the night when it launched FearNet, a new horror programming channel being offered via video on demand, online and mobile devices. The Philadelphia-based company is using an integrated campaign of online marketing, print and television advertising to promote the channel, which debuted last Halloween.

FearNet is a joint venture between Comcast Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment and Lionsgate Entertainment. Comcast has experimented with multiplatform ventures in the past, such as Exercise TV, which had a Web component in addition to offering video-on-demand programming. But FearNet marks the first time the cable provider has created a channel that offers mobile content and integrated features between platforms, says Comcast spokeswoman Kate Disston.

Comcast has the rights to the Sony/MGM movie library, and was looking for a way to leverage those properties. The horror genre was a natural for the multiplatform launch, considering both the growing popularity of scary movies and the young audience typically attracted to them.

“Multiplatform is really hot for our target demographic, which is 18- to 34-year-olds,” says Disston, noting that the male/female split of viewers is 50-50. “They use their mobile phones constantly and they get their entertainment on the go.”

FearNet’s video-on-demand component is available free to digital cable subscribers who have Comcast’s OnDemand service in 37 states and the District of Columbia. At launch, on-air cable advertising and print were used to publicize the channel. Banner ads are being run as well.

Comcast has 12.7 million digital cable subscribers, and about 24 million cable subscribers overall. Last November — the first month after rollout — FearNet generated 7.2 million video-on-demand views, and pulled 6 million in both December and January. The channel consistently has ranked in the top 10 most-viewed video-on-demand features.

FearNet.com has over 40,000 registered users (or “victims,” as the site calls them). It’s logged about 220,000 unique viewers per month, and is averaging just under 770,000 video views. In addition, video downloads of movies to rent or buy are offered, a service managed by Guba. Prices usually are comparable to what one would pay for a DVD.

Users don’t need to register to view films offered in the site’s free library of films and shorts. Those who do sign up are asked merely to create a user name and share their e-mail address, which may be used for an e-mail newsletter program at some point. Once registered, users can create a profile and share photos and information about themselves, such as their favorite genre films.

Registering also allows members to participate in FearNet.com’s community bulletin board. “Horror begs for a community,” Disston says. “Fans are very into blogging and user-generated discussions surrounding the genre.”

Meanwhile, FearNet is partnering with other companies to conduct cross-platform promotions. The site just finished a contest tying into the release of the Sony Pictures’ “The Messengers.”

FearNet Mobile is accessible through any wireless phone with WAP service. Currently, users can view news and movie reviews.

While Comcast does use direct mail and newspaper inserts to generate product sales to new customers, Disston says those media typically aren’t used to push new features such as FearNet to existing subscribers. “FearNet is included in Comcast’s OnDemand direct mail promotions, but we feel using interactive ads like banners on other Web sites really helps us reach our target demographic.”

Down the road, Comcast expects to develop similar channels that will target other niches.

“We are firm believers in the strength of the multiplatform format,” Disston says.