Syfy Offers ‘12 Monkeys’ by the Barrel

Syfy is getting into the binge-viewing game, scheduling all 10 episodes of the third season of time-travel drama 12 Monkeys to air over the weekend of May 19.

The thinking: it’s a “binge-able” show that could benefit from a viewing stunt that could serve current fans, draw in new ones and maybe generate interest on the ad-sales side.

That’s what Chris McCumber, president of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, said of the plans, which include airing the first four episodes of the new 12 Monkeys season on Friday, May 19, with limited commercials. Syfy will then air three episodes each on both Saturday and Sunday night.

McCumber said he’s not concerned about the short scheduling format hurting ratings for the series. “We believe this is a big event for Syfy,” he said. “For us to go out there and say you can get all of 12 Monkeys in one weekend is a great thing for our ad sales team go out there and sell.”

Syfy also will drop the 10 episodes on the Syfy app the day after each one airs on the network. McCumber said demand from the show’s fans for new episodes convinced the network to offer the unusual binge viewing-ready rollout of the series at the same time it announced there would be a fourth and final season, so that fans knew there was more of the story coming next year.

12 Monkeys has such a dedicated fan base, and it’s one of the most binge-able shows out there,” he said. “We decided to give a gift to the fans and bring it out in a way that says, ‘Here’s all of them, all at once.’ ”

Syfy — which last week announced coming new originals, including Krypton, a 2018 offering highlighting Superman’s backstory; Happy!, starring Christopher Meloni as a corrupt ex-cop; and Nightflyers, in development from a novel about spacecraft travelers by Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin — is the latest network to adopt a version of OTT service Netflix’s scheduling strategy of offering all episodes of a series at once to encourage binge viewing.

Over the past year premium services Starz (The Girlfriend Experience, Flesh and Bone) and Showtime (Dice) have tried the gambit. More recently, basic-cable service Freeform (Beyond, Famous In Love) has offered its younger-skewing viewers full seasons of original series through linear video-on-demand and digital outlets.

McCumber said Syfy wasn’t planning to give the binge treatment to any other original series, nor has it decided whether or not to offer the fourth and final season of 12 Monkeys — set to air in 2018 — in a similar manner.

“It has to be organic to the show,” he said. “With 12 Monkeys, we saw a rabid fan base, so we said, let’s give a gift to them. In this day and age, the way the marketplace keeps shifting, you have to keep trying new stuff, and we thought this would be the right show to do it on.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.