Fright Delight for Women Viewers


In a scene from Syfy’s latest sci-fi/horror film
Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, an alligator hunter happens
upon an enormous, 50-foot python that proceeds completely
decapitate its victim before swallowing the rest
of his body whole.

Graphically gory scenes like this — often found in cable’s
horror-themed content — would repel female viewers, or so
the conventional wisdom says. Nonetheless, women made
up 46% of the 2.3 million viewers of Mega Python vs. Gatoroid’s
Jan. 30 premiere.

Women viewers are no longer covering their eyes, but
rather tuning in for often bloody and violent horror content
on cable. For instance,
females make up 52% of
viewers for NBC Universal’s
Chiller, which features such
frightful programming as
Tales From the Dark Side and
The X-Files and horror films
such as Saw II, Firestarter
and Phantasm II.

“The so-cal led common
wisdom is that women
don’t watch genre material
including horror, and it’s
wrong and has been historically,”
Thomas Vitale, executive
vice president of
programming and movies
for Syfy, said.

HBO’s hit vampire series
True Blood draws nearly 50%
of its audience from female
viewers tuning in to see the show’s mix of vampires, werewolves,
erotica, drama and bloody gore. In fact, HBO officials say it’s the combination of those factors that helped
the series’ third season draw 12.7 million viewers with replays
and DVD viewing this past fall, second only behind
The Sopranos.

“Our audience for True Blood is men and women of all
different ages,” said HBO Entertainment president Sue Naegle.
“It appeals to everybody, which is one of the reasons
why the numbers are so big.”

Even AMC’s gory zombie series The Walking Dead drew
its fair share of female viewers. Women represent more than
40% of the audience for the series, which follows a group of
survivors — often graphically — in the months after a zombie
apocalypse, according to AMC officials.

Much like True Blood, The Walking Dead’s strong character
development and dramatic storylines — amid the backdrop
of flesh-eating zombies — helped draw female viewers
to the series, according to AMC president Charlie Collier.

The Walking Dead attracted female viewers, but it’s more
than just a horror story,” Collier said. “It’s a layered character
drama and a story of survival.”

Vitale said networks like Syfy, which offer reality and
drama content that traditionally appeals to female viewers,
are in a better position to get women to sample horror
shows. Today’s shows often feature strong female characters
in central roles, which makes them more appealing to
women watchers.

“I think a lot of horror writers put the female character in
jeopardy or the family in jeopardy so that women become
the heroines of the tale,” he said. “Also a good horror story
is a very personal — you wind up caring about the characters
and their relationships, and that takes it to a more emotional