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Syfy Channel Analysis - December 2009


* Bold denotes programming change


The week on Syfy historically started out with a full stack of male-skewing STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (or another in the franchise) on Mondays, but this is Syfy, not SciFi, and Mondays have shifted to female-skewing GHOST WHISPERER, picked up in syndication. This December the network departed from strategy and ran male-skewing theatrical blockbusters on a couple of weeks. Tuesday is an important night, with originals (SCARE TACTICS this month) leading into EXTREME CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING (ECW).  Wednesday is a female-skewing night, where GHOST HUNTERS and GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL usually appear. Last month DESTINATION TRUTH moved in at 10PM, this month it was GHOST HUNTERS ACADEMY,. Thursdays are usually, but not always movies.  Fridays have shifted from low-rated acquired programs to debut night of original programming. Saturdays and Sundays are all movies, including ORIGINAL MOVIES scattered throughout the weekend.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2009 vs. December 2008  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

With the help of some blockbuster action/adventure movies and a special mini-series, Syfy held the bottom-line this December, with core men 25-54 ratings gaining 4% vs. last year and dropping 3% vs. last month. While men 25-54 remain the largest audience segment, their ratings are relatively flat; women and 18-49 audiences are where the growth can be found (+13% A18-49 vs. year ago).

Syfy laid claim to lots of accolades this quarter  "along with its #8 finish in Adults 18-49 for 2009, this marks Syfy's best Fourth Quarter ever among total viewers, Adults 18-34, Adults 18-49 and the key women's demos (Women 18-34 and Women 18-49)."  Note this statement pretty much covers every demo EXCEPT men 25-54, the network's biggest audience. Syfy embarked upon a strong, high-profile rebranding campaign in July, and it has been a self-declared success. "On every conceivable level, this has been a terrific year for the Syfy brand. From extraordinary programming and inventive marketing to innovative digital initiatives, we've managed the exceptional feat of successfully broadening our reach while remaining true to our core viewer base," stated David Howe, President Syfy.

Taking a step back, let's look at what happened in December. Mondays have historically been an under-performing night, even after Syfy made the switch from male-skewing STAR TREK to female skewing GHOST WHISPERER. But this month, the network helped spike the ratings by throwing in part 2 of ALICE, the network's original mini-series, plus Casino Royale and The Mummy. This off-strategy move resulted in male ratings doubling vs. last month, and big gains across the board vs. both last year and last month.

Even with more theatricals and ALICE encores to boost ratings, Tuesdays were at the bottom of the ratings heap this month. ECW lost 20% of its male ratings vs. last year, and SCARE TACTICS was the second-worst performer on the line-up. The worst performer of the month also aired on a Tuesday - a single telecast of the new comedy OUTER SPACE ASTRONAUTS.

Happily, Wednesday nights are all figured out. The female-skewing GHOST HUNTERS franchise rules the night, and the network. This month, GHOST HUNTERS ACADEMY continued to run in the 10PM slot.  Both programs are down from last month, but they continue to pull in the highest ratings among the regularly scheduled programming.

Coming off paranormal Wednesdays, Syfy loaded up Thursday nights with blockbuster theatricals, Pirates of the Carribean, Men In Black...the caliber of movie usually reserved for USA. But, a Christmas Eve marathon of GHOST HUNTERS stole the night, which probably had the programmers going hmmmm. Mark Stern, executive vice president of programming for Syfy notes, "The majority of these (paranormal) series attract more females than males. Women love horror movies and haunted shows about the afterlife. If you look at these shows, they deliver a real mix of emotions -- a visceral one about the investigation and another about who might still be here and what happened to them." Sounds like there's room for more paranormal fare.

Friday night saw the finale of the much-discussed STARGATE UNIVERSE (SGU) on December 4. "Compared to the 2008-09 STARGATE ATLANTIS season 5, SGU jumped 51% in Adults 18-34, 33% in Adults 18-49, 28% in Adults 25-54 and 22% in total viewers," according to the net. Again, men 25-54, the largest group of viewers, was not included in the press release. According to CableU's take on the Nielsens, men 25-54 ratings were 7% higher for the December '08 run of ATLANTIS vs. the December '09 ratings for UNIVERSE.

SANCTUARY was the other player on Friday nights. In its second season, SANCTUARY was the best Friday night player, topping SGU as well as theatricals Men In Black, Pirates, and Total Recall. And, it grew the male demo vs. the December '08 performance. However, the program delivers numbers that are lower than the network's M-SU average,

Weekends saw still more action-driven theatricals, but the star of the weekend was mini-series ALICE.

Which can all be summed up by saying that while the network has made some big strides forwards, there is still a lot of room left for growth in 2010. The network plans to focus on its younger and female viewers, attracting them with programming that goes outside the normal sci-fi fare.


The SciFi Channel has just about finished up its year as Syfy. With a lot of creative marketing, a lot of press, and a lot of scoffing, the network threw out a lot of stationery and made the name change as of July 7th. Yet, things don't look all that different yet at Syfy. With the notable exception of WAREHOUSE 13, most of the "new" programming on the 2009 line up consisted of new seasons of returning programs. What the network did succeed at was maintaining its core men 25-54 audience, while growing the younger and female audiences.

So what's around the corner for Syfy? Syfy is embracing its feminine side, devoting an increasing amount of programming to female audiences. With a broader definition of the science fiction genre and a broader target audience, the field has opened up. Even comedy has made its way to the net (OUTERSPACE ASTRONAUTS).

Network programmers have gone on record that they are looking to program all kinds of reality, Dating, food, makeover, cooking, and dance have all been mentioned, but with a Syfy twist. And what is the Syfy twist? The same as all other programming that resonates anywhere - strong character-based shows.

Tim Krubsack, VP of alternative programming, said to realscreen "we're finding what really works for us are personality-driven shows. immersive, first person and strongly based on the talent that is taking you through the journey. A lot of the shows that we're looking to develop from this point forward are really focused around an individual or a team that is doing something extraordinary."

"Extraordinary" is a word that programmers at Syfy seem to like. Unusual, unique, and imaginative are other buzz words at Syfy.