Shudder Puts The Screaming In Streaming Video Horror is enjoying a rise from the dead right now — particularly on TV. And as streaming TV services multiply, AMC's Shudder has found success with a menu of classic horror and original programming.
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Shudder Puts The Screaming In Streaming Video

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Shudder Puts The Screaming In Streaming Video

Shudder Puts The Screaming In Streaming Video

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Some of TV's biggest hits over the past few years have been ridiculously scary.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

SHAPIRO: Take "American Horror Story," "Stranger Things," "The Walking Dead." Now, just in time for Halloween, NPR's Neda Ulaby looks at an upstart streaming service feeding the hunger for horror.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: We've already got Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, so why a place just for horror? Craig Engler knows. He's the general manager for Shudder. This specialty streaming service is taking off, he says, because, well, one, horror has a lot of fans. Two, it's a bargain to make, and three, more people like it than they realize.

CRAIG ENGLER: People think horror is just the "Halloween" movies or "Friday The 13th."

ULABY: But horror is also Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" and the "Alien" movies and "The Silence Of The Lambs." And it's Stephen King.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CREEPSHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Daddy, what's happened to you?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I don't know.

ULABY: Right now, the biggest hit on Shudder is "Creepshow," a series inspired by Stephen King's short stories.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CREEPSHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) I'm going to call the doc.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Don't you dare.

GREG NICOTERO: I think one of the intentions with "Creepshow" was to draw people to Shudder.

ULABY: That's "Creepshow's" executive producer Greg Nicotero. He also produces the smash cable hit "The Walking Dead" on AMC. AMC created Shudder four years ago, partly because of "The Walking Dead's" stunning success. The idea is cornering the market on smart, interesting horror with a place where fans like Nicotero can scratch their itch for scares with, for example, a twisty ghost story that was a box-office hit in Indonesia.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SATAN'S SLAVES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character, speaking Indonesian).

NICOTERO: "Satan's Slaves" - it was so crazy good, and I loved it so much.

ULABY: Because of the tightness of its focus, Shudder can be a great place for first-time feature directors to show their films. Coralie Fargeat is French. Her feminist horror thriller is called "Revenge," and she told me why it's better to be on Shudder than Netflix.

CORALIE FARGEAT: You have so many movies and so many algorithm that make you appear or disappear or you don't knows.

ULABY: Shudder puts you in front of the eyeballs that want to see your work, she says. The top two best-reviewed horror movies of the year, according to the website Rotten Tomatoes, stream only on Shudder. One is by another female director from Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character, speaking Spanish).

ULABY: "Tigers Are Not Afraid" is a darkly gripping fairy tale about children orphaned by drug cartels.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As character, speaking Spanish).

ENGLER: Horror travels super well, right? The things that we're afraid of are universal.

ULABY: Shudder's general manager Craig Engler.

But streaming services face terrifying competition now from Apple, Disney, HBO and more. They're all adding or expanding streaming as we speak. Laura Martin analyzes media for Needham. She believes Shudder and its parent company AMC are taking a smart approach.

LAURA MARTIN: Because the fans are so rabid...

ULABY: Forget competing with giant services like Netflix, Martin says - smarter to focus on enthusiastic fan bases that love relatively cheap content and promoting it to each other. Oddly, that makes Shudder not unlike another AMC streaming service that specializes in high-end British television.

MARTIN: So I actually think this is sort of an inspired choice that AMC is pursuing here.

ULABY: Viewers seem to agree. That service, Acorn TV, has more than a million subscribers. Shudder's numbers remain publicly shrouded in mystery, says its general manager Craig Engler.

ENGLER: Which is a shame because the metrics are awesome. We are growing by leaps and bounds. Almost every month, we set new records in terms of viewership, in terms of subscriber acquisition.

ULABY: When it comes to who actually subscribes, Engler did disclose that almost half are women. And...

ENGLER: There's a huge overlap between Shudder members and people who read books.

ULABY: Giving horror fans something eerily in common with fans of British TV shows and fans of NPR.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILLIAM STROMBERG & THE MOSCOW SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA'S "THEME FROM FRANKENSTEIN")

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