Interview with Horror's Channel Manager Stewart Bridle By
James Whittington, Friday 10th May 2019Stewart Bridle is Horror Channel's longest serving Channel Manager. He has guided Horror for almost a decade and has managed to bring to our screens many classics as well as introducing us to some new horror movie talent. In this, our 15th anniversary month we chat to Stewart about his role and some of the juicy pieces he has lined up for the rest of 2019.
HC: Have you always been a horror movie fan?
SB: Yes! I've always been interested and fascinated with horror and all genre stuff. I have an older brother who would manage to rent or get bootleg VHS of some great horror titles and I have memories of watching things like the original Dawn Of The Dead or slashers like The Burning while far too young and got the bug then. Later on I became a huge fan of the Alien films and ended up running a fanzine about them, so I've always been involved with horror films in some way.
HC: Can you recall your interview for the Manager's post?
SB: Actually, I wasn't originally recruited to work on the Horror Channel but another one run by the company so there were no questions on my horror knowledge just what daytime drama I knew and enjoyed. But it soon became apparent to my bosses I was a massive geek and knew my stuff so that when they needed a new manager to take over Horror they already had the perfect candidate under their noses. Sometimes you just end up where you've always needed to be.
HC: How complicated is it to create a schedule and how far do you plan schedules in advance?
SB: It's more complicated than people generally think. I'm constantly working on selecting and acquiring titles all year round and planning the strategy of the channel about a year in advance where possible. However, you have to adapt plans when you can't get some of the movies you want or unexpected ones become available. It's equally exciting and frustrating at times. When it comes to the schedule itself there are a lot of factors you have to take into consideration beyond the movies themselves so it's like a massive jigsaw puzzle that has to be slotted together to get the maximum potential commercial performance as well as being hopefully entertaining TV. Then there's all the other aspects to work with like our on-air creatives, marketing and digital activities too, there's many moving parts!
HC: How many movies do you screen a week?
SB: Depending on the week it can be as little as just a few to trying to get through something like 20. There's a lot of independent titles out there of variable quality so these need to be watched to see if they fit the channel and will be worth licensing. This is probably my favourite part of the job, who wouldn't love getting paid to watch movies, but I have to screen some stinkers at times and am under a bit of pressure to find a good selection of stuff.
HC: We get a lot of questions via social media asking why the channel shows such stuff as Star Trek, Andromeda etc, what's your response to this?
SB: Well the channel's come a long way in 15 years and of course it has evolved in that time. If it was possible to just show horror throughout the day and for that to be popular and successful enough then it probably would do that, but that's not the case in the marketplace it's in. The channel has transformed into a multi-genre entertainment one and sci-fi is very popular (and daytime friendly) but we still have a large horror slant, particularly in the post 9pm movie schedule and I work to keep it that way. The more successful the channel is the more people it has to reach and that means the more things we have to do for a broader audience. But that also means the channel is still there entertaining and it is better to have the channel then not.
HC: You are the channel's longest serving manager, what's your proudest achievement with the channel?
SB: That's a tough one but I think any time where we break any ratings records is of course an achievement. But in terms of content one thing that took a lot of work to get was acquiring classic Doctor Who for the channel. It was a long process but gave the Horror some great exposure to a new audience, had a great launch campaign and being a fan of the show, it was great to be able to work with it. The Sci-Fi Zone has been a popular programming block and a great idea, but I've also loved some of the seasons I've been able to do, particularly of favourite directors of mine such as Wes Craven and John Carpenter.
HC: What's the strangest movie request you've received?
SB: Hard to point out a single example but we do get asked for some pretty obscure stuff at times and things that are just too niche to work for a larger TV audience. Most viewers of course don't understand the complexities of acquiring and licensing content but its not a simple as just wanting to play a title, picking up a DVD and putting it on...
HC: Horror recently had it biggest ever audience on one of the hottest days on record, how do you feel when you get news like that?
SB: It's a good feeling and strangely happy one that people were choosing to watch your channel than enjoying the sunshine! Basically, results like that both show the channel is still relevant and popular in what is an increasing difficult TV broadcasting landscape and that I'm also doing a good job and what I've chosen to acquire, and schedule has worked so the effort has been worthwhile.
HC: What's your fantasy Horror channel line-up?
SB: I've managed to get some but not all of my favourite movies on the channel at one time or another. If you're talking about a night of just my most loved films then it would probably be something like The Exorcist followed by Jaws, then Alien or Aliens and then the original Dawn Of The Dead. What a night's viewing that would be!
HC: So, what treats can we expect over the next 15 years of Horror?
SB: I'm not sure yet about all 15 years but we certainly have some great stuff coming up for the rest of 2019. Invasion season in May is one I've wanted to do for a while and happy that finally came together, there's some great things I've managed to get from known titles like Sinister and You're Next to some cool independents like Bite and Terrifier, along with a favourite sci-fi series of mine; Space 1999. Hopefully viewers will continue to enjoy the selection and find the channel as fun and entertaining as ever. Thatís why we're here!
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Child's Play has been produced by David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith under their KatzSmith banner, whose film adaptation of Stephen King's It has earned over $700million worldwide. Aaron Schmidt and Chris Ferguson executive produced the project. The film is directed by new talent Lars Klevberg [director of the forthcoming horror chiller Polaroid], and written by Tyler Burton Smith, based on the original script. ...