Consumers have a seemingly endless range of entertainment choices in the libraries of big-name streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. But for consumers who are fans of specific genres, extensive libraries can feel superfluous.
That’s why, in recent years, several genre-specific subscription streaming services have emerged to help fans narrow their content search. Crunchyroll, for example, offers a wide selection of anime content, while services like Acorn TV allow users to stream their favorite British TV shows.
For scary movie fans, there’s Shudder, a horror content subscription service operated by AMC Networks that aims to provide aficionados with access to a steady stream of thrills and chills. PYMNTS recently caught up with Craig Engler, Shudder’s general manager, about the challenges and advantages of offering a genre-specific streaming service, and why he sees a bright future for darker, scarier content.
A ‘Sherpa’ for Scary Subscriptions
Shudder, launched in 2015, offers a mix of horror films, as well as TV shows and documentaries. The service is available as an app on iOS, Google Play, Android, Roku, Xbox One and Fire TV platforms, with subscriptions starting at $3.99 per month. Engler describes Shudder as a provider of horror, suspense and thrillers for both hardcore and casual fans of the genre.
Regardless of consumers’ level of appreciation, Engler said Shudder aims to act as a guide for horror content. This means connecting fans to new films they might not have heard of, or helping them to rediscover an obscure title they may have seen years ago.
To help subscribers make the most of the service, Shudder relies on curators to divide content into notable collections, such as “A Woman’s Touch,” which highlights films by female directors, and the Italian horror subgenre “Giallo!”
“We guide [subscribers] through which ones we have, why we have them and why they’re worth watching,” Engler said. “We’re like your curators, your guide — your sherpas through the genre.”
A Broad Base for Fear
Not all genre-specific formats have been successful, however. For example, Seeso, an NBCUniversal-owned streaming subscription service that focused exclusively on comedy content, folded in late 2017.
Horror is no exception to genre-specific streaming failure. Engler pointed out that an earlier horror-only venture called Chiller — a channel that was also owned by NBCUniversal — also folded. Chiller’s linear broadcast format contributed to its downfall, he said.
“One of the big minuses for a straight linear player is, selling ads around it can be difficult if that’s all you have on your network,” he observed.
An additional challenge for a genre-specific service like Shudder is trying to reach and grow an audience while standing apart from streaming competitors like Netflix and Amazon. To address this challenge, Engler said the company relies on targeted ads to raise Shudder’s profile and attract new subscribers.
A streaming service that focuses on horror content has an advantage, Engler noted, because horror is one of the “broadest genres,” reaching into feature films, video games and books, and that the genre “travels incredibly well.” In fact, the Shudder platform has launched in several global markets since its initial debut, including Canada, the U.K., Ireland and Germany.
“Horror is one of those universal emotions that everyone can appreciate and experience,” Engler said. “It makes total sense to offer it as a subscription service.”
Getting Subscription Fright Right
Fortunately for Shudder, the horror genre is experiencing a popularity boom.
Last year, a big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller “It“ grossed $327 million at the box office, making it one of the most successful films of 2017. “Get Out“ was another horror hit, grossing $176 million at the box office last year and winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
“Horror is going through a renaissance,” Engler said, noting that the trend is continuing this year with box office successes like “Hereditary“ and “A Quiet Place.” “There’s never been more interest in horror than there is now.”
Because horror has such a broad appeal, Engler said a subscription-based model presents the best opportunity to capitalize on that interest and reach consumers.
In an effort to keep its current base of subscribers engaged and to attract new ones, Engler said Shudder will continue to work on offering films that will entice current fans and invite newcomers to further explore the genre. He also said that Shudder plans to build up its original content offering, following its successful launch of an original TV series called “The Core,” which offers subscribers a behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking techniques that define horror films, as well as interviews with notable luminaries in the craft.
Based on the current demand for frightful films, Engler believes Shudder can continue to find new subscribers who want some kind of horror experience.
“We’re a genre-specific service that has a huge runway,” he said.