Part 1: Why TNT succeeded where SyFy has failed UPDATE

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UPDATE 11/26: Syfy’s Craig Engler responded to our article to explain that the comments mentioned by Tim Brooks, who no longer works for SyFy, did not reflect the feelings of SyFy as a whole and explains further why they made the changes they did. Checkout his interview with tor.com.

Craig also points out that their lineup of W13, Alphas, Eureka and Haven have helped increase SyFy viewership by 16% in Adults 18-34. However, with the cancellation of Eureka, they are starting to kill the very power house lineup that in Sept gave them the most watched third quarter prime ever. TVByTheNumbers.com

The fall of the SciFi Channel

Started in 1992, The Sci-Fi Channel was a joint effort with USA Networks, Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios. Over the years the channel showed classic SciFi shows such as Star Trek, Night Gallery and more.

Then 2008 rolls around and the SciFi Channel has its best year yet, ranking 13th in total viewers and doubling its earning in the fourth quarter. By March of 2009 SciFi decided to change its name to “SyFy”. According to Moviefone.com in an interview with Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel “The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”

This ignited a slow burn that had been smoldering for some time for the Sci-Fi Channel and that has lead to some of the lowest ratings since its high in 2008. The name change isn’t a killer of course, i mean it is a catchy paraphrase and yes it still says the same thing. I can even understand their reasoning from a business/copyright point of view. SyFy can be copyright protected and trademarked, where SciFi can’t. It also helps build a brand that is unique to the channel and its company. However the merger with comcast in the last quarter of 2009 seems to have put the final nail in the coffin of a downward spiral that began with the cancellation of Stargate SG-1 in 2006. Since the cancellation of one of their flagship series, the channel had begun to rely heavily on its Sci-Fi original productions. At best these were B movie shows that seemed kind of cool at first but by 2010 rang of insanity. The channel was focusing on “Snakehead Terror” and “Supergator” and lost its touch with real Sci-Fi.

By the end of 2010 SciFi had cancelled all 3 of the flagship series in the Stargate franchise leaving us dedicated fans feeling cheated after investing over 10 years following the series and the Sci-Fi Channel. Sci-Fi also gave up Battlestar Galactia in 2009.

Now given all the cancelled shows, name changes and poor mini-movies syfy has come up with, the 2 things that has all of us “geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that” really pissed is SyFy’s choice to make wrestling a mainstay of their network and reality series that focus on ghosts and the paranormal!!! Please for the love of god explain to me how wrestling is related to Sci-Fi in some way? And explain to me how paranormal research documentary style shows fits the bill? I would rather see more paranormal shows then wrestling, though getting rid of both would be best.

Why TNT did it better

TNT is not known for its Sci-Fi programming. In fact it doesn’t deal with it at all up until recently. TNT picked up a Dreamworks co-production that was Executive produced by Steven Spielberg called Falling Skies. Unlike shows before it, Falling Skies had a mix of Sci-Fi that also focused on the human element of the struggle to survive and broke all the molds of previous Sci-Fi series. We are all fans of Falling Skies here, so we don’t have to get into detail as to why the show is great but let’s compare SyFys show ratings and that of Falling Skies.

One of SyFys best shows still running is Sanctuary which in its best rating series premiere for SyFy to date got more than 2.7 million viewers; 1.08 million among the adult 18–49 demographic and 1.4 million among the adult 25–54 demographic.

Compare that to Falling Skies which premiered with 5.9 million viewers’ live+same day. Over its season run it average 4.8 million viewers live and grabbed an astonishing 7 million plus with +3 and +7 DVR numbers. Its season finale also blew SyFy out of the water with a 5.6 million viewer draw, making Falling Skies the #1 basic cable series in the US. By the end of the first season Falling Skies grabbed 2.5mil adults 18-49 and 2.8 million adults 25-54 doubling the numbers SyFy was able to pull.

Robert Prentice