Syfy Melds Old With The New


Sci Fi Channel may have entered a new brand galaxy by changing its name to Syfy, but the network has no plans to steer its programming ship away from its science-fiction roots.

The network is hoping the return of core shows like its fantasy-laden Eureka and paranormal reality series Ghost Hunters, as well as new entries like Warehouse 13 — which launched to strong ratings numbers last week — will help make the brand transition virtually seamless for viewers.

“The new brand represents our take on the genre — it’s not only about sci-fi, but it’s about the supernatural, paranormal, action/adventure, mystery,” said David Howe, president of Syfy, which rolled out the new moniker last Tuesday.

While acknowledging concerns from hard-core sci-fi fans about the branding change, Syfy executive vice president of original programming Mark Stern said that the new moniker complements the network’s effort over the past few years to broaden its programming content beyond outer space-oriented shows.

“What we’re doing is what we’ve always been doing, which is to invite people in but hold on to our core,” said Stern. “We want to find a brand that is less of a barrier for people to come in and sample it.”

The network, which averaged 1.1 million total viewers during the second quarter of 2009, down 12% from second-quarter 2008, jumped out to a strong start under its new brand with the July 7 premiere of Warehouse 13, which drew 3.5 million viewers.

The series — which follows Secret Service agents Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly), who are charged with chasing down paranormal artifacts to store in a secret government facility — was the third-most-watched series premiere in the network’s history, behind Stargate Atlantis (4.2 million total viewers on July 16, 2004) and Eureka (4.1 million total viewers on July 18, 2006).

The network hoped to keep the ratings momentum going with the July 10 premieres of staples Eureka and Ghost Hunters.

On tap for Syfy later in the year is the October launch of the latest entry in the Stargate franchise, Stargate Universe, and the highly anticipated 2010 launch of Caprica, the prequel to the popular Battlestar Galactica.

“The programming is going to be very much the same,” Stern said. “The thing that’s interesting about this is that the programming has been evolving over the past few years and broadening out and finding more of a broader audience beyond the brand that we had.”