Fright fans will soon have a cable station to call their own with The Horror Channel, the first 24-hour national digital genre cable network, which will debut in October 2004. FANGORIA has been given the exclusive scoop on the ambitious project, which will involve many of the industry’s key chillmeisters and broadcast a mix of classic and new fright flicks and television shows, as well as original programming.
“I hope we can bring the genre into the limelight, where it deserves to be,” CEO and founder Nicholas A. Psaltos tells Fango. ”There’s no reason why the Horror Channel should not exist and thrive. Comedy Central and Sci Fi are both doing extremely well. Both are very valuable enterprises and they’re each only about a dozen years old. And they are both descendants of movie genres. Today there are the Golf Channel, Food Network and DiscoveryWings. None of these borrows its content from a proven, successful or hugely profitable movie genre. But the Horror Channel does.”
“We hope to create a compelling and successful company whose identity is fomented by the true grassroots horror fan,” says co-founder Kim Bangash, who has helped finance a number of films, including STRANGELAND and SLING BLADE. “We want to take that vision and then create an international brand that pays homage to all the different genres of horror in this country and abroad.”
To create this vision, the Horror Channel has turned to the filmmaking community and signed many familiar scream greats to its advisory board. In addition, the Channel has brought FANGORIA editor Tony Timpone on board as a consultant and has an interest in developing a “FANGORIA Fridays”-type programming block, as well as licensing some of the company’s video titles as broadcast premieres.
“One of the first things we did was to reach out to the key horror filmmakers,” Psaltos says. “The masters of horror were all quite happy to meet with us. We met with the established fathers of the genre: George Romero, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Mick Garris, Guillermo del Toro, Roger Corman, Stuart Gordon, et al. It was like a dream sequence. Every meeting was positive and collaborative. Later on, we reached out to some of the younger guys, up-and-comers like Rob Zombie, Eli [CABIN FEVER] Roth, Lucky [MAY] McKee, Uwe [HOUSE OF THE DEAD] Boll, Robert [LOVE OBJECT] Parigi and Victor [JEEPERS CREEPERS] Salva. These guys are all brilliant and worthy of the honor of carrying the torch for the next several decades. Ultimately, we will be collaborating with many of these people on new programming such as films, miniseries, anthology shows, behind-the-scenes specials and branded guest-hosting spots.”
The next stage involves bringing horror buffs into the endeavor, and Psaltos says that he’s all ears. “Our fans are extremely important in this process,” he explains. “We are launching our consumer website, www.horrorchannel.com, this October 1. We need the fans to fill out a survey so that we can petition every cable operator in the land with their unified voice clamoring for a horror channel. In addition, the fans will become part of our programming and content creation process. We will develop programs that they ask for and, in some cases, produce scripts that they write or air films that they’ve produced. We also have a strong desire to connect with the Goth music and lifestyle scene. Talent like Rob Zombie will be a strong proponent in the music area, and we’re already in discussions with the Costume Network and several others regarding the lifestyle aspect.”
Psaltos says that the lack of a cable station for genre enthusiasts inspired his gargantuan and risky undertaking. “John Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel, was a personal hero of mine,” he says. “I saw him on an elevator one day when I worked at Discovery and thought, ‘Why not me?’ All I needed was the right idea. Then a friend of mine was talking about how huge horror was and that it needed its own channel. I thought, ‘Yes, this is interesting.’ So I began visiting all the websites and attending FANGORIA and Chiller Theatre conventions and talking to intriguing people. At the time I was working in a dead-end job at Bravo/IFC. My wife was seven months pregnant, and we’d just bought a house. So what else was I supposed to do? I waited until Henry Nicholas was born, then three weeks later I quit my job and began working on the Horror Channel.”
“It’s hard to believe that no one has put a Horror Channel on the air before,” Bangash adds. ”There have been attempts before that for one reason or another petered out. With the growing penetration of digital cable, today’s environment seems to be the most viable time to launch the Horror Channel. People can now get service with up to 1,000 channels, which makes this idea all the more of a no-brainer. I don’t need to tell you how popular this genre is. It is the last major feature-film genre that does not have a cable channel dedicated to its fanbase.”
So what took so long? “Cable executives are not risk-takers,” Psaltos says. “They see this as a risk. They don’t understand the consumers that flock to this genre. Sci-fi won its own channel because their fans were ‘easier’ to identify and categorize. But the paradox here is that horror fans are even easier to find, because everyone loves horror—even if they’re too afraid to admit it. About a dozen years ago, when Sci Fi first launched, they were supposedly the answer to all fantasy genres, including horror. And at first they were, dedicating about 35 percent of their programming to horror. Over time, this changed because Sci Fi wanted to hone their appeal more specifically to the sci-fi audience. Fan complaints were not loud enough within the cable industry to ignite a unique horror channel offering. Plus, at the time, analog channel launches were hugely expensive because shelf space was limited to about 60 channels. Things have changed over the past four years. Direct broadcast satellites [DBS] and digital cable boxes enable homes to receive hundreds of channels. But despite the increased bandwidth, it’s still not easy—or cheap—to launch a channel.”
To deliver the Horror Channel to your living room by fall 2004, Psaltos and company must continue raising at least $4 million in the months ahead. They’ve assembled a number of choice cable executives and business people to facilitate the process.
“We have put together a team that is a healthy mix of veterans from the cable TV, film, consulting and finance industries,” Psaltos says. “Also, we are all horror fans and movie lovers. Kim is from the independent film scene. Our head of marketing, Chris Apostle, was at Showtime Networks. Our CIO and project launch manager, John Giunti, is a huge horror fan and a management consultant. I come to the table with 10 years of experience in the cable industry. I was most recently in programming and acquisitions at Bravo/IFC. Prior to that, I was in finance and business development at both A&E and Discovery. We also have several part-time consultants, full-time advisors who are from various cable networks, investment banks and film production/distribution entities.”
“This concept, this team and its timing could not be more right,” Bangash adds. “Many channels are launched by accountant and lawyer types. We are fortunate to not only have the right team of professionals needed to launch a cable network, but most of us are also horror enthusiasts.”
Of course, the question on every Fangorian’s lips is whether the programming will be shown uncensored. “Yes,” answers Psaltos. “Films will be uninterrupted and uncut. Older TV series will have the commercial interruptions that were originally edited into them. Some of the more graphic films will probably only be available on our sister Video On Demand channel.” Adds Bangash, “The advent of digital cable allows us many creative ways to keep the movies coming uncut.”