Fearnet a Scream Since Halloween Debut

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Comcast’s Fearnet video-on-demand service came out of the gate strong, and a plan to expand it into a linear television channel is under consideration, according to one of the venture’s equity partners

“We do continue to look at the possibility of a linear plan for both satellite and cable, as well as telco potential partners,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told Wall Street analysts during a Nov. 10 fiscal-second-quarter conference call.

Executives at Lionsgate -- the independent-movie studio that produces gorefests like the Saw and Hostel franchises -- talked at length about Fearnet, which debuted on Halloween as a VOD service and Web site.

Feltheimer said his company, which is supplying movies to Fearnet, just signed a deal to become a one-third equity partner in the service, joining Comcast and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

That “means we’ll be incurring one-third of the expenses associated with the launch over the next two to three years,” he added, pegging Lionsgate’s contribution at some $13 million over that span.

Citing Fearnet’s performance, Feltheimer told analysts, “We believe we have a very, very successful economic model without a linear channel.”

Fearnet’s initial results have exceeded expectations.

“Fearnet has become the third-most-watched VOD site on Comcast,” Feltheimer said.
The Fearnet VOD service achieved 2.3 million views in its first six days, surpassing its goals for the first month.

The venture’s Web site also surpassed goals for the first month in its first week. Seven days after its launch on Halloween, the Web destination had recorded more than 1 million page views and 400,000 video views.

Comcast is “thrilled” with the early performance, according to senior director of corporate communications Jennifer Khoury, who said the Fearnet VOD service accumulated about 4 million views by mid-November.

In its first two weeks, Fearnet’s Web site received 1.8 million page views and 600,000 views of streamed video. The site has 20,000 registered users, making it the No. 1 horror site, Khoury added.

A Fearnet channel is still under consideration, but it is “contingent upon a business model that we all feel -- the three partners feel -- makes sense,” Feltheimer said. “And that really will be all about whether DirecTV and EchoStar [Communications] and the telcos, and mostly Time Warner [Cable], all believe and agree that this is an exciting venture for linear, not just VOD.”

Comcast said there is no immediate plan for Fearnet to become a linear network.

“We are 100% committed to the VOD, online and wireless play for Fearnet,” Khoury said. “We certainly are leaving ourselves open to look at possibilities for the future, depending on what providers are interested in receiving.”

Lionsgate expects to offset its investment through a five-year licensing agreement to supply films to Fearnet and a pact, still being negotiated, to supply content for Comcast’s other platforms.

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