Sci Fi 'Taken' By Its Winner


New York— Declining to rest on its laurels after Taken's highly successful run, Sci Fi Channel will look to create more special projects, although a sequel to the 20-hour alien-abduction series is not in the service's near future.

To aid Sci Fi's ambitious plans, parent company Universal Television will allocate a collective $300 million to $400 million toward original programming for Sci Fi and USA Network over the next two to three years, according to chairman and CEO Michael Jackson.

Any future Sci Fi original fare, though, will be measured against Taken, the 20-hour maxiseries produced by Steven Spielberg. The debuts of the 10 two-hour installments, which ran from Dec. 2 through Dec. 13, averaged a 4.1 household rating, lifting the network to the top of the primetime ratings charts for the first two weeks of the month, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

With myriad encores, Taken's 61 telecasts attracted almost 81 million households and 115.7 million viewers, a base that provided a large forum for the network's new branding campaign, which positions Sci Fi as "The Channel of Imagination."

had 31 million unique viewers during its run," Jackson said "Taken
absolutely helped propel Sci Fi to a unique position among cable networks and beat UPN and [The] WB for the two weeks straight, and capped what will be remembered as the year of cable."

Vivendi Unversal Entertainment chairman and CEO Barry Diller, however, nixed a potential Taken

"We told the story, and there's nothing more to do but exploit the story," he said. "We should call it a great day and go on to the next thing."

Sci Fi's success has made the road difficult for any company looking to launch a similar service, he added. Viacom Inc. (whose Paramount Pictures unit owns the Star Trek
franchise) has in the past expressed interest in possibly creating a new science fiction-oriented service or in purchasing the existing network.

On tap

Sci Fi plans to do two to four major events a year, including Children of Dune, a sequel to its popular Dune
original miniseries, as well as a remake of the 1970s series
Battlestar Galactica, network president Bonnie Hammer said.

Also in 2003, Sci Fi will pursue a new drama series, A Thousand Days, based on the Marvel Studios comic Strikeforce: Morituri.

Hammer said the network will also continue to work with other Vivendi-owned companies to develop programming synergies that could propel Sci Fi fare beyond the channel.

"What we hope is to develop product that will go to the network and that Sci Fi will benefit and have the second window and have strip rights down the road," she said.

Added Jackson: "We want to own the sci-fi genre, whether it's on our network or selling shows to the broadcast networks."