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Syfy Channel Analysis - November 2009



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. 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 / November 2009 vs. November 2008  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

November was another successful month for Syfy. Although it dropped some audience from October's peak, it is still one of the better performing months. Much of the network's success is coming from younger and more female audiences.

Monday night's GHOST WHISPERER is in its third month, replacing the long-running STAR TREK franchise at the start of the week. The switch remains a ratings success, with female ratings surging and male ratings remaining basically the same vs. last year's STAR TREK performance. However, the show is losing traction, as it lost 13% of core women 25-54 ratings vs. last month. And, Monday remains the least-watched night of Syfy's week.

Tuesdays go back to male skewing programming, with two hours of SCARE TACTICS followed by EXTREME CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING. In the second month of its third season, SCARE TACTICS is delivering 40% better male ratings than it did last year, and is down just 2% on male demos vs. last month. It tends to build audience through the four installments, and the 9:30PM telecast usually tops the 10PM ECW.  Still, we haven't seen much PR for the show, and no announcements of a renewal yet.

The star of Syfy is GHOST HUNTERS, pushing Wednesdays to the best-rated night of the week, across the board. GHOST HUNTERS dominates the top-rated telecast list on the network with the top four telecasts, plus four more on the top 20. But that's among households. GHOST HUNTERS is strongest with women, which is the biggest growth area for Syfy. GHOST HUNTERS ACADEMY, the second spin-off after GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL, launched this month. The new program did not perform quite as well as the one it replaced (DESTINATION TRUTH), but it was head and shoulders above all the other Syfy programming. Syfy has claimed that this season was GHOST HUNTERS' "best ever," a catch-phrase the PR department likes to throw around. Specifically, Syfy tells us that "season five of GHOST HUNTERS averaged a 2.1 HH Rating, its best season in key demos and the best season ever for a Syfy original series in Adults 18-49. Compared to season four, this represented increases of +8% in HH rating, +9% in total viewers, +14% in Adults 18-34, +9% in Adults 18-49 and +10% in Adults 25-54."  You might notice the network talks only about women and adults when referring to GHOST HUNTERS.

With the exception of the Thanksgiving Day James Bond movies, Thursday's line-up (movies, specials and LEGEND OF THE SEEKER) did not perform.

Fridays were the only night to take substantial ratings hits vs. last year and last month. STARGATE UNIVERSE and SANCTUARY were on the air this month, and they were both down by significant margins. Compared to last month's ratings, STARGATE UNIVERSE was down by more than 25% on households and adults, while SANCTUARY was down by about 15%. Compared to November 2008, SANCTUARY is down by about 10% on adult ratings. Syfy has noted that DVR usage for both programs helps the numbers. Although the ratings are off, it looks like the network is sticking with these programs...they will both be back next fall with new seasons.

Weekends are primarily theatricals and Syfy original movies. This month's stand-outs were V: The Final Battle (piggy-backing on the ABC series hype) and Ice Twisters.

ALICE, a Syfy original mini-series that takes a modern twist on Alice In Wonderland, aired December 6th and 7th. While the program far exceeded the usual Syfy movie, it did not measure up to the 2007 Sci Fi Channel twist on The Wizard of Oz, TIN MAN, which was produced by the same team.

Programmers, producers and PR all worked hard to make the Sci Fi to Syfy switch a success, and the network managed to finish the year strong.


Syfy is embracing its feminine side, devoting an increasing amount of programming to younger and more 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). Can reality be far behind?

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. But so far, beyond the logo, things don't look all that different yet at Syfy. With the notable exception of WAREHOUSE 13, most of the "new" programming on the line up consists of new seasons of returning programs.

According to recent press, the change was made, in part, so they can move away from the nerdy and geeky images traditionally associated with science-fiction fans.  Network President David Howe said that the name resonated with the younger, tech-savvy crowd because that would be "how they would text it." He also said, in an interview with TV Week, the name "...made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise." (TV Week, March 16, 2009)

But the bottom-line on the name-change can be found by looking at the bottom-line. "It's a broad-appeal, mainstream entertainment genre," Howe says. "That's what we're embracing with this rebrand." In other words, it allows the network to go after a bigger audience. And that means the opportunity for a broader range of genres. Comedy, fantasy, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure as well as science fiction are all possibilities on Syfy.

While the network continues to bill itself as an adult network, its programming has always had a strong male skew. With GHOST WHISPERER and GHOST HUNTERS and its spin-offs taking up more of the schedule, there are more female skewing programs in primetime than ever before.

Also in the works are extensions of the Syfy brand as kids' network, a gaming company, and finding a home in new global territories.