Syfy Channel Analysis - May 2011



* Bold denotes programming change


Syfy programs its line-up differently every night of the week, with no strips or similar fare to carry viewers across the week. Most nights have seen dramatic change in recent months, with weekend movies remaining the only constant, including the SYFY ORIGINAL MOVIES premiering every-other Saturday at 9PM.

Mondays have shifted from low-rated GHOST WHISPERER, STAR TREK and SCARE TACTICS to original series. Mondays are being set up to be a marquee night this summer. Tuesday has been underperforming with alternate reality the last two months with iDESTINATION TRUTH and MARCEL'S QUANTUM KITCHEN, but is back to movies for now.. On Wednesdays the fading GHOST HUNTERS franchise still dominates, but newer reality programs are becoming more common. Thursdays went from reality programming to movies, to acquired series TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, and is back to STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION for now. WWE SMACKDOWN has revitalized Friday nights, bringing a lot of new male viewers to the net and a solid male lead-in for Friday night series (URBAN LEGENDS this month)..


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / May 2011 vs. May 2010  (% Change)




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

MAY 2011:  Historically, May is an underperforming month for Syfy and 2011 is no exception. Syfy ratings continued to slip this month, falling to a new low for the year. Adult 25-54 ratings were off by 8% vs. both last year and last month. There was a positive story for the network's male delivery, as total primetime ratings climbed 10% vs. last year on men 18-49 and 5% on men 25-54. The male/female delivery skews more male than it has in a long time, about 60% male. In May of 2010 the network's audience was about 50% male. However, that change has more to do with attrition of women than the addition of men (with the exception of wrestling bringing men to the net). Women ratings are down by about one-fourth since last year. And that 8% loss on adults 25-54 shows there were more losses on women than gains on men. Compared to last month, ratings are down for both men and women; about 4% for men and 18% for women.  Bottom-line on all those numbers - as the network programs to its male viewers, more women are tuning out than men are tuning in.

Monday night is typical of this dichotomy. Compared to last year Men 18-49 were up 24%, women 18-49 were down 48% and adults 18-49 were down 17%.  This year's adult 18-49 audience was 67% male, last year's was 46% male. All it takes to figure out this dramatic shift is a look at the programming. Last year  the schedule was three-fifths STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION and two-fifths GHOST WHISPERER. This year sci fi cult series STARGATE UNIVERSE and SANCTUARY filled the night.

On Tuesdays DESTINATION TRUTH and MARCEL'S QUANTUM KITCHEN ended their runs the first week of the month, giving the night a chance for improved ratings for the rest of May. The net has been struggling to give Tuesday nights an identity, and this last run of reality loosely based on science fiction led Tuesdays to grab the lowest ratings of the week. But, when the reality programs moved out, the night was filled with disparate movies. Any genre could have landed here, and it did"¦from kid-targeted Chronicles of Narnia to traditional sci-fi Star Trek movies to the horror classic Dawn of the Dead. What stuck with audiences? Narnia and Serenity. So audiences will come, now it's up to the Syfy programmers to decide who they want to watch their air.

Wednesdays are ruled by female skewing GHOST HUNTERS. With repeats from seasons six and four running this May, women ratings for the show were down 50% from last year and 20% from last month, when new episodes were running.

After its Syfy debut on Thursdays last month, TERMINATOR SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES was only on the air one week this month. STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION ran in its place, improving the ratings. But, the bar was low. Thursday is now the lowest rated and oldest skewing night of the week, across the board.

Fridays remain the bright spot on the line-up. WWE FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN is a powerhouse for the net, placing tops every week on every demo. The show is basically retaining its sizable audience, down just four percent on core men 18-49. The program also creates a venerable lead-in for the 10-11PM slot. URBAN LEGENDS was the lucky program this month. Pulled from its Monday night timeslot, men 18-49 audience actually tripled from last month.

Movies are a steady anchor for Syfy on weekends. They are reliable performers, and originals particularly can give the numbers a nice bump. While they were off their game in April, weekend movies were back in May, especially among young men. In the top telecast ranking Syfy original Almighty Thor was second only to WWE.


Syfy continues its march forward, exploring new genres, launching new programs, testing new strategies, seeking new companion programs and trying to go where no programmer has gone before. All this to keep its core sci-fi fans while cultivating and defining the new syfy viewer. The quest has met with some success and a lot of failures, but the quest goes on.

The network will run five scripted programs in July alone (two new programs, three returning), and is working on a total of fourteen new series and events, comprising over 100 hours of original programming for the 2010/11 season. New series run the gamut, spanning genres and formats - dramas, reality, paranormal, competition, and even celebrities from Lee Majors to Tommy Lee.

Nearly two years after the rebranding, questions remain. How does the net define the new Syfy viewer in traditional demographic terms? Are they male or female, 18-34 or 25-54, and when will Syfy successfully target its target?

New series run the gamut, spanning genres and formats - dramas, reality, paranormal, competition, and even celebrities from Lee Majors to Tommy Lee.

The development plans indicate the network will go another year without any strip programming to act as a base or a steady foundation for the rest of the line-up.