Fear primal in VOD pact

Fearnet brings in Lionsgate

Lionsgate has come aboard Fearnet, the horror-themed video-on-demand co-venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Comcast that’s set to launch Oct. 31.

Partnership, said to be in the final stages of negotiation, marries the two biggest producers of horror films to the first network dedicated to the genre. Fearnet is the first VOD offering to emerge from Comcast and Sony, created to draw on the thousands of movies and series brought together from the libraries of Columbia Pictures and MGM in the wake of the Sony/MGM merger.

Through the new deal, channel gets a lock on Lionsgate’s immense library of scare pics. Lionsgate has been looking for a focused TV partner to help exploit its library of over 1,000 horror titles — which include recent hits “Saw” and “Hostel” — since last year.

Sony and Comcast formally unveiled the ad-supported service targeted at adults 18-34 at this year’s National Cable Show (Daily Variety, April 10).

Studio CEO Jon Feltheimer hired former AMC exec Kate McEnroe in January to oversee the enterprise. (She will serve as point person on Fearnet, alongside Comcast prexy of emerging networks Diane Robina and Sony Pictures TV topper Steve Mosko).

Move positions McEnroe against her former employers at AMC parent Rainbow Media Holdings, which owns a suite of satellite-delivered, high-def services that includes horror-themed net Monsters HD.

Agreements with outside cable operators to carry Fearnet are still in the works and aren’t likely to be finalized by year’s end.

Deals with advertisers, however, should be announced shortly.

The movies and series will be free to Comcast’s digital subscribers. Company will make money from advertising and from license fees ponied up by other cable ops. Similarly, Comcast’s other VOD start-ups — i.e. preschool channel Sprout and Exercise TV — initially launched solely on Comcast and later gained carriage on other cable systems.

Fearnet will also launch Web site Fearnet.com on Halloween. Site will feature social networking capabilities, a space for user-generated content and downloadable features like short films and supplementary DVD-type extras. Parties are also working on content for mobile phones.

Service adds another bullet in the Comcast on-demand artillery; satcasters DirecTV and EchoStar cannot offer VOD platforms.

As previously announced, inventory from the Sony/MGM catalog includes theatricals such as “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Poltergeist,” “Ghoulies,” “Fright Night,” “Child’s Play” and its sequels and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” TV series include “Stargate: SG-1,” “The Outer Limits,” “Poltergeist: The Series” and “Dead Like Me.”