Syfy Channel Analysis - October 2010

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OCTOBER 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

Syfy programs its line-up differently every night of the week, with no strips or similar fare to carry viewers across the week. The network continues to tinker with the mix each weeknight. Weekend movies remain the only constant, including the successful SYFY ORIGINAL MOVIES premiering every-other Saturday at 9PM.

Mondays have changed again this month; female-skewing GHOST WHISPERER is off the air and a full block of SCARE TACTICS has taken over. Wrestling moved from Tuesday nights to Friday nights, leaving typical sci-fi male skewing fare in its place this month - SGU and CAPRICA. Wednesday's female skewing GHOST HUNTERS franchise now leads into reality-based HOLLYWOOD TREASURE. Thursdays used to be movies but the network changed direction this summer with the launch of a night of reality programs loosely based on science fiction. Fridays now start out with wrestling; which leads into a male skewing sci-fi drama.

OCTOBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / October 2010 vs. October 2009  (% Change)

HH

M25-54

F25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-12%

15%

-18%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-35%

-31%

-46%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-34%

-41%

-33%

Thursday 8-11pm

-20%

-20%

-6%

Friday 8-11pm

32%

6%

16%

Saturday 8-11pm

-20%

-37%

-10%

Sunday 8-11pm

-16%

-26%

-8%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-16%

-23%

-16%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

OCTOBER 2010: It was Syfy's 31 Days of Halloween Marathon this October, The network tuned up its line-up and featured some Halloween-themed programming to pull out one of the better months of 2010. September 2010 was one of Syfy's lowest-performing months in recent history, and October 2009 was one of the best rated, so the year-ago comparison above is a bit tricky to read, while month ago comparisons tend to overstate successes. With that said, we see total prime adult 25-54 ratings up 15% vs. last month and down 19% vs. last year. Bottom-line, it was a good month as the network was more focused with a more cohesive schedule.

Mondays have been all about female-skewing GHOST WHISPERER, but adult ratings never grew; the program just traded out male STAR TREK fans for women. This month SCARE TACTICS returned to Syfy on Monday nights. Compared to October 2009 when it aired on Tuesdays, the program lost one-third of its audience. But the move was good for Monday nights, resulting in 32% more men 18-49 and a much younger audience over last year (median age dropped 24%).

With wrestling moving to Fridays, Tuesday took the hardest hit compared to both last month and last year. STARGATE UNIVERSE and CAPRICA were the primary players of the night. In November Syfy announced CAPRICA, the prequel to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA would not be renewed. "Unfortunately, despite its obvious quality, CAPRICA has not been able to build the audience necessary to justify a second season." As of November 2, CAPRICA was off the schedule with the remaining five episodes set to air "sometime during first quarter 2011." No word yet on SGU, which in its freshman season pulled in ratings slightly above the network average for its premiere telecasts, but below the network average when the 8PM encore is included.

Wednesdays are usually the peak of Syfy's week, as GHOST HUNTERS and its spin-offs take over the night. However, this month Fridays are tops on households, men and adults. GHOST HUNTERS night was watered down with DESTINATION TRUTH encores moving in at 10PM and the usual 10PM encore of GHOST HUNTERS moving to Thursdays at 10PM. GHOST HUNTERS as a whole, including its five new episodes and eight encores, took a l12% loss on core women 25-54 ratings vs. last month, and a devastating 40% loss vs. last year.

But there was some good news on Wednesday. After many delayed starts, HOLLYWOOD TREASURE finally made it to air on Wednesday, October 27, running back-to-back episodes at 10PM AND 10:30PM. It is being billed as Syfy's best new reality franchise premiere in six years, According to Syfy, in the three weeks since its premiere HOLLYWOOD TREASURE has averaged a 0.9 household rating and 1,229,000 total viewers. The half-hour alternative reality series follows a Hollywood auctioneer of pop-culture memorabilia, and captures the hidden treasure appeal of the PAWN STAR craze.

Thursday is where all the new reality shows were supposed to move, but Syfy wisely decided to give new programs a boost with a Wednesday night GHOST HUNTERS lead-in, while moving the third run of GHOST HUNTERS to Thursdays at 10PM. This move helped establish programs like HOLLYWOOD TREASURE, but did not necessarily help GHOST HUNTERS. Thursday's fare was dominated by DESTINATION TRUTH with an encore at 8PM and a new episode at 9PM, plus A GHOST HUNTERS encore at 10PM. Audience built each week as audiences found GHOST HUNTERS on its new night, but then the schedule changed again, and a retooled FACT OR FAKED: PARANORMAL FILES was back, bringing in even more viewers. Through it all, DESTINATION TRUTH audience basically held steady vs. last month, but lost an astonishing 62% of women 25-54 ratings vs. last year, when it was not running any encores, just premiere telecasts on Wednesdays following new eps. of GHOST HUNTERS.

Fridays enjoyed the biggest improvements of the month as WWE FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN moved in with improved ratings. It was the highest rated program among households and men on the network, a feat WWE rarely achieved on Tuesday nights. The top 5 rated telecasts on households were all WWE. And so, the stage was set for the finale of HAVEN and the season three premiere of SANCTUARY. SANCTURARY was one of the network's better-rated programs this month, and according to Syfy the season three premiere of Sanctuary jumped 12% among adults 18-49 vs. season two. But, according to our take on the Nielsens, the program lost 27% of its men 18-49 ratings and 34% of its men 25-54 ratings vs. last October. HAVEN ended with mixed results, up about 20% on men and down about 20% on women vs. last month. The program has received a renewal order.

Movies, both original and acquired were back up this month after taking a fall in September. Compared to last year they are even on women 25-54, down on other demos. The best performer was Red: Werewolf Hunter, which continues the theme of retold fairy tales.
The center-piece of the month of Halloween-themed programming was once again GHOST HUNTERS, with a six-hour live special airing Sunday, October 31, from 7PM-1AM. Comparing the primetime portion to Halloween 2009's GHOST HUNTERS special, as with most of the schedule, adult 25-54 ratings were about 15% lower.

Fourth quarter is usually strong for Syfy, and despite some setbacks this month, the network does seem to be in a good place for some long-awaited ratings growth.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

Opportunity abounds on Syfy. The network is wide open to new ideas and new programming formats. The  "Imagine Greater" tagline works both as network branding and as a call to producers to push the limits on the programming they bring to the network. Syfy is working to define and find audience for the three different genres of original programming: scripted dramas, reality and movies, not afraid to break the mold and try new formats. However, we see a consistent theme - the programming that sticks closest to traditional sci-fi fare pulls in bigger audiences. This was proven with the network's attempts with reality programming Thursday nights, and also with theatricals.

With no strip programming to act as a base or a steady foundation, Syfy seems to target a different audience each night of the week. This strategy covers the gamut, but forces audiences to work at remembering when to tune in.

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