Fans feed on scares

FEARnet amps Comic-Con promo push

After NBCUniversal successfully rebooted Syfy several years ago with a Comic-Con splash, Comcast is expected to put considerable resources behind scaring up viewers for its horror cabler FEARnet at the fanboy fest this week.

FEARnet will launch its most high-profile promo push — with a series of panels and its “Con of the Dead” party — since launching on Halloween in 2006 as a joint venture between Lionsgate and Sony.

Given that many of Hollywood’s promotions this year focus on superhero fare like “Man of Steel” and fantasies like “The Hobbit,” FEARnet could benefit by being the primary source of horror programming at Comic-Con, which typically courts genre fans.

While FEARnet has been attending Comic-Con since 2007, primarily exhibiting in the Sony Pictures booth inside the San Diego Convention Center, execs wanted to up the channel’s presence after recognizing “its importance as a vehicle to get in touch with our fans,” FEARnet’s VP of marketing Faye Walker told Variety. “We want to continue to make audiences aware that FEARnet is not just a VOD channel and website but that we are a linear channel. We want talent and our peers to see we’re a legitimate network.”

To do so, FEARnet execs will tubthump horror comedy “Holliston” as the channel’s first original series, which is headed into its second season.

MPI Media Group’s horror arm Dark Sky Films also is pairing with FEARnet to bring “Hatchet III,” along with creator Adam Green, as well as Conor McMahon’s “Stitches,” and Richard Raaphorst’s “Frankenstein’s Army,” which will be joined by both the helmer and the visual f/x shop Unreal Effects, on panels.

“Many of our products are director driven, so this is our chance to put the filmmakers in front of the press and create excitement for their products,” said Greg Newman, executive VP of MPI Media Group. “FEARnet is a great resource of all things horror and they really embrance the genre.”

With the cost to exhibit at Comic-Con or even travel to the show rising every year, partnerships have become more important for smaller entertainment players.

“We were looking for an opportunity to promote our brand, and when FEARnet made itself available, we knew it would be a good fit,” Newman said. “FEARnet is very supportive of Adam and his work, especially with his latest series ‘Holliston.'”

Other partners include videogame publisher Capcom, who is using FEARnet’s “Con of the Dead” party to promote “Resident Evil 6.” Another partner is ZombieWalk: San Diego, which has taken place at Comic-Con over the last six years before the Friday the 13th event.

“It’s going to be an awesome bash where we celebrate all things horror at the Con with the fans,” Walker said.

FEARnet’s Comic-Con activity comes after the channel experienced once of its busiest growth periods over the last year. Channel is available in more than 7 million homes and is soon expected to announce more carriage deals, with the channel launching on Cox Cable in San Diego in June.

“As the cable network continues to expand its footprint across different operators, it’s imperative we showcase our content at such venues as the Con,” Walker said.

FEARnet isn’t the only cabler at Comic-Con this year, with Syfy, TNT, USA, AMC, HBO, Showtime, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Hub making pushes.

“I think that as a cable net with various promotional vehicles we definitely have more freedom as opposed to a one-off movie tentpole where a studio only connects with fans for a few months leading up to its premiere,” Walker said.

As Hollywood continues to debate the importance of Comic-Con’s impact on box office results and TV ratings, Walker said “there’s no doubt” that exposure at the confab “sparks conversations months in advance.

“If anything, it gives fans a chance to see something they may not have otherwise known about. It’s just about figuring out how to break through all the noise, literally, and create an engaging and memorable experience for them.”