Network commits to 13 episodes of 'Fear Itself'

NBC has given a 13-episode commitment to the horror anthology series “Fear Itself,” which the Peacock plans to air sometime next summer.

Project is a reworked version of the Emmy-winning “Masters of Horror” and comes directly from the Showtime series’ producers, Lionsgate and Industry Entertainment.

“Masters of Horror” exec producers Keith Addis, Andrew Deane and Mick Garris are all onboard to EP the NBC project as well.

NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chairman Ben Silverman, who announced the project Monday, said he’s looking for new ways to offer scripted fare in the summer.

“It’s less expensive than the traditional license fees we pay,” Silverman said. “That’s allowing us to open up original programming to work across the whole year. There are different ways to get scripted shows on the air all year round.”

Silverman said “Fear Itself” could also be scheduled during the regular season on Saturday nights as an alternative to the net’s drama repeats.

Picking up 13 episodes without the pilot allowed both the net and producers to keep down the license fee and production costs. Given the subject matter, Lionsgate and Industry are also bullish on international prospects and other ancillary distribution (Lionsgate, after all, is a partner in the FearNet VOD channel).

To that end, Silverman said the pact was more similar to a cable programming deal than the traditional broadcast network template.

“This is a different deal model,” said Lionsgate TV programming and production prexy Kevin Beggs. “This is truly a partnership between a network and studio, looking for a way to monetize a program. For us, that meant we had to get to 13 episodes. We’re not interested in the pilot business. And they’re not looking to overpay for what may very well be a summer or Saturday night slot.”

Production will begin early next year; the producers are looking to woo top-name horror writers and helmers for “Fear Itself,” just as they did with “Masters of Horror.”

Beggs said NBC pushed to change the title to avoid comparisons to Showtime’s two-year run and also to broaden the series’ focus.

“They felt it was important to have a new title, and we agreed,” Beggs said. “It doesn’t limit us. ‘Fear Itself’ can tell all kinds of stories.”

To meet broadcast standards, NBC will have to stay away from too much blood and gore — something Silverman said wouldn’t be a problem. “Scary doesn’t necessarily mean blood,” he said.

More graphic footage will be saved for the DVD (and other backend) market, Beggs added. “We’ll be making longer versions for video — it’s easier to cut and trim for NBC’s running time anyway,” he said.

While nets have had a hard time with the anthology genre in the years since “Twilight Zone” and “Love American Style,” the Peacock is clearly interested in reviving the form, as the net also has a romantic anthology in the works from Cindy Chupack and JoAnn Alfano (Daily Variety, Sept. 24).

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