Cable network AMC and Korean drama specialist DramaFever are getting closer to the launch of their second niche online subscription service: AMC plans to launch a service dubbed Shudder.tv, targeting horror fans, sometime in the coming months. Shudder will be powered by DramaFever, which also supports AMC on another venture: a subscription service for documentary fans that quietly launched earlier this year.
Shudder recently published a splash page that promises “screams on demand — coming soon,” and asks consumers to register to be notified when the service launches. AMC previously spent $10,000 to acquire the Shudder.tv domain, and more recently registered Twitter and Facebook accounts for the new venture. The network’s Digital Store LLC subsidiary, which is better known as SundanceNOW, also registered a trademark for Shudder.tv.
It’s still unclear when exactly Shudder is going to launch, or how the service will be priced. DramaFever co-CEO Seung Bak revealed in June that his company was working on a streaming site for horror movies, which he said at the time was going to launch in 2015. The Information subsequently reported that DramaFever was cooperating with AMC on the service. Since then, both companies have been hush-hush about their cooperation — DramaFever declined to comment for this story, and AMC didn’t return multiple requests for comment. But both companies have quietly been very busy.
AMC’s first online subscription site is up and running
AMC has been dabbling in online video for some time, with some of its sites including YeahTV and its SundanceNow VOD service. The latter has been offering streaming rentals of select documentaries since 2010, and it also introduced a limited subscription tier, “Doc Club,” two years ago, offering subscribers access to six movies per month for $3.99. However, while SundanceNow may have been a good concept, it never had the solid technology to actually make a dent, and quickly looked outdated compared to services like Netflix.
That’s why AMC quietly relaunched the SundanceNow Doc Club as a separate site this year. The new service offers consumers unlimited streaming from a selective catalog of 600 titles for $6.99 a month. AMC is inviting guest curators like Ira Glass to compile their lists of newly added favorites every month. The service, which was previously only available on the web, now also has mobile apps, with support for Chromecast and Roku forthcoming. The site looks a lot more modern and professional than it did before, and a small icon on the bottom of each page explains why: It is “powered by DramaFever.”
Why AMC is doing this
AMC isn’t the only TV network looking to embrace online video these days. Amid a bigger shift toward online viewing and increasing competition from streaming market leader Netflix, CBS launched its own online TV service last October. HBO has announced that it wants to offer an online subscription sometime in 2015, and Univision is looking to do the same.
However, taking on Netflix head-on is hard, especially if you don’t have the breadth of HBO’s content catalog. I suggested in the past that AMC might be one of the few networks to pull it off, but the company apparently decided to go down a different route, and instead embrace the niche.
That’s a smart strategy: Even Netflix content officer Ted Sarandos recently admitted during an investor conference appearance that the company may not be best suited to serve each and every niche. Niche streaming services like DramaFever and its competitors Viki and Crunchyroll have shown that you can build businesses catering to devoted fans of genres like Korean drama, Anime or even telenovelas.
With both the DocClub and Shudder.tv, AMC is now hoping to repeat those success stories. This may not work; fans of these particular genres may be fine with what Netflix has to offer, or not willing to pay at all. But in the end, the niche may be the network’s best shot at reinventing TV online.