Syfy will look to blaze a new trail in the digital media and cable space April 15 with the premiere of its new sci-fi-themed drama series, Defiance. The series, which follows the relationship between humans and aliens after Earth is invaded and its landscape altered, will be accompanied by a massive multiplayer video game that will evolve with the show’s storyline. Syfy hopes the rare linear series/video game hybrid will attract both science fiction fans and young, digital media-savvy consumers. Syfy president Dave Howe spoke with programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the series, as well as the network’s overall programming mix of reality content and scripted series that it hopes will propel ratings success. In the first quarter, Syfy has averaged 1.3 million viewers, on pace with its performance during the same period in 2012. Howe also talked about the digital media challenges facing the industry this year, as well as efforts to make linear-cable content more valuable and entertaining for viewers.
MCN: How does Syfy plan to translate its 2012 scripted and reality programming moves into strong ratings performances in 2013?
Dave Howe: 2012 was a great year for us; our unscripted shows really began to pop. Tuesdays are now our second night of reality — Face Off did incredibly well there and will continue to be the anchor show on Tuesdays. We also had Total Blackout there, which sends out a message about Syfy that it’s kind of fun, and accessible, and offers programming that people don’t expect us to be doing.
MCN: How will you look to continue the balance between scripted and reality series during primetime?
DH: Wednesdays will continue to be very successful with unscripted shows like Ghost Hunters and Haunted Collector, while Mondays will continue to be our traditional scripted night with Being Human coming back for its third season as well as Lost Girl, which is doing very well for us. The return of Warehouse 13 [on April 29] gives us a great slate of scripted programming, and adding Defiance to the lineup will make it even greater.
MCN: You mentioned Defiance. How groundbreaking is it for Syfy and for the industry to tie together both the linear cable show and a video game offering?
DH: Nobody has ever attempted this before. We recognized that our audiences are very passionate about video games. What we didn’t want to do is a traditional video game spin-off ; if you talk to any video gamer, they’ll say that any spinoff game from a movie or TV series is never as good as the original. What we wanted to do is create an experience that is designed to live on both these platforms — we really wanted to embrace the digital, multiplatform consumer entertainment experience and create what we believe will be the world’s first piece of IP that was built from the ground up to live as a massive multiplayer video game and a scripted series. We’re excited about it.
MCN: What are some of the challenges that both Syfy and the industry face this year?
DH: We’re all aware about the explosion of video on multiple platforms, so we’re all looking to make shows more timely and relevant so that we can make appointment-viewing experiences that much greater. That’s what so fantastic about Defiance — it’s a watercooler show that you really need to see every week to enjoy the game and to be up to date with the storytelling. These kinds of events will be critical for us, as are the big breakout, unscripted shows like Robot Combat League. Those kinds of shows create that urgency from a viewing perspective for Syfy and any network.