I caught a piece on io9 talking about how Syfy is now looking for good adult entertainment in the genre of science fiction.
Wow, I never thought I’d see that sentence in the same paragraph with the name, SYFY. At least not in this present era. But things look like they might be getting pushed in a direction that fantasy and science fiction fans might actually like seeing. Or at least hoping for.
Historical Retrospect of The SciFi Channel
Way back in the day, the Syfy channel was called the SciFi Channel, but it’s reputation was peppered with the expectations of anyone who saw or thought of the network as being a place for Star Trek, Star Wars and other series like that. And that was it.
It was pigeon holed into a certain expectant demographic.
Which was all fine and good for the fans of those shows, but the network was struggling. The fandom of Star Trek and Star Wars is not the best demographic for advertisers. As far as a TV network is concerned, a tiny but supportive demographic isn’t a profitable one. (Trust me, we want the folks with excess money to like our shows too!) If there aren’t enough fans of Star whatever, the network would have failed, sending the genre of this brand of TV back into the dark corner of TV networks. And SciFi was slowly but surely headed there.
What was unique about The SciFi Channel was that they tackled the shows no other network had the foresight of broadcasting.
Science fiction was a hard sell on most basic networks, but not because there weren’t enough fans. Science fiction was a hard sell because the networks never took it serious enough to commit good money, time and writing to the genre. If you’ve ever seen the 1990 Captain America movie, you know what I’m talking about.
So the genre has had an uphill battle through the years. But every now and then, there were little nuggets of success like Star Trek, Star Wars and cartoons like Transformers, Thundercats and other fantasy/sci-fi shows could exist more easily.
And these successes weren’t always immediate successes, but most have endured over the years, not only retaining old fans, but constantly capturing new ones.
As time went on, technology made sci-fi and fantasy entertainment projects more easily digestible because the effects became incredibly realistic.
That, and thank god for folks like Stan Lee and Joss Whedon! (YES, I know there’s a huge list of names that can be quoted, as to having helped keep the genre alive. But these are the the ones at the forefront of my mind, and the general public at the moment.)
As real science and technology made fantasy visuals more realistic, sci-fi and the like started to benefit in the realm of entertainment. And it helped that Marvel started landing known actors in their movie roles. Or at least landing likable actors.
Sci-Fi Channel’s Future
While this was going on, The Sci-Fi Channel started looking to their future. They knew their fate was per-determined to fail if they stuck with the programming momentum they were on.
They hired Dave Howe back in 2002. Howe was responsible for bringing the BBC into a very successful TV business model and he was hired to do the same again, with Sci-Fi.
The man understood what needed to be done. That being for the network to rebrand itself and branch out, nabbing more ratings and more monies. That meant snagging more eyeballs. Younger eyeballs. He needed to get the entertainment consumers’ attention on the network, and then, he could redirect them to other things.
They also understood how the sci-fi fan might feel about the changes that were coming down the pipe. We know because as the changes started to take place some years back, net fans screamed.
Back then, Howe said that despite the reality TV programming and wrestling, the ratings and monies that would come in would help fund more and better potential sci-fi venues.
It’s now 2014. It’s now the Syfy channel. And they are no longer stuck with the Sci-Fi branding image so they could do what they need under the new banner, and not worry about the pigeon hole. Howe also helped bring such popular series as Tin Man, Battestar Galactica and Eureka to the net.
He’s had the network branch out into online gaming and mobile markets and now Syfy is a household named network. Literally speaking, who has not heard of Syfy?
And now that they’ve situated themselves as a solid contender amongst networks, and started to keep their word about putting out more sci-fi and fantasy content. Some good, some, well… they’re trying.
And now, per the io9 article, it seems that now Syfy is possibly looking to start veering away from their new image.
Remember how they were originally thought of as a Star Trek/Star Wars network back in the day? Now the network is being seen as a place for reality TV fodder and wrestling. Though their first initial tactic worked, it might now be backfiring.
Admittedly, these “new” venues have pulled in the ratings and monies for the Comcast owned NBC subsidiary. But now the reality shows have too much of a hold and it’s made the long-time net fans question the network. Even if some of their content isn’t that bad. I’m speaking about the fascinating series called Face Off and a few other things.
It seems that their latest push these last few years has possibly peaked, as it’s been reported that their prime-time demographics have dipped 11% in 2013. To be honest, I just don’t know how many fictionally pumped up ghost shows we can stomach!? Ghost roads, ghost colleges, ghost towns, ghost this and ghost that! I’m trying not to mention the fantasy world of TV wrestling, but it is that whale in this sci-fi room.
Now the new exec VP, Bill McGoldrick, is looking to possibly be the next HBO/Showtime network. Meaning that he’s looking to sign solid creative talent and start delivering better content. And that, is good news for the fans that have stuck it out through this latest phase from Syfy.
As it’s put, they want to find the next Sopranos, Walking Dead or the like. Or, “good adult stories in the genre.”
As Marvel is paving the way with great stories and making good money in the theaters, they’re proving that these genres can be appealing. And other networks are broadcasting great content like Sleepy Hollow on NBC, or The Walking Dead on AMC, it’s obvious that the sci-fi and fantasy genre is being embraced nicely. Even if it has some gross to it, people are still flocking to it.
And apparently McGoldrick has been heard by the industry and is reportedly seeing some good entertainment pitches come his way.
And for the Syfy fan who has stuck it out, despite some of the frightful or staged reality TV, wrestling and “original Saturday night” movies, it seems that we might be having our patience rewarded.
It won’t be an immediate reward, but as we get shows like Helix on Friday nights and maybe, just maybe, slightly better Sat night movies, well, maybe the network will start returning to the roots that the core sci-fi fan used to appreciate.
And if what McGoldrick is quoted to be working for is true, then we’re in for potentially good times on this network.
But they have to play it smart. They need good shows to attract good viewers who attract good advertisers with bigger bucks. It’s not just about us, the sci-fi genre fan… it’s about capturing everyone else who hasn’t given our genre a second look, before now. It’s about indie authors like Peter Cawdron and Hugh Howey and Matthew Mather to write such compelling content in the genre, that it pulls people in. And then people want more. And so they look. They look for more and when new quality content arises, they get it.
And this slow but seemingly inevitable cycle is how the genre will succeed. So in a way, between Dave Howe, Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Hugh Howey and others, it’s slowly getting there. People are seeing these kinds of stories, mixed with the fanciful imaginative take on science-based stories from our future or other planets, can be done well. People are giving them a try.
Then, when there’s smart TV programming, smart sci-fi TV series on the tube, it won’t get cancelled in a season because no one gets it. Instead, it will be welcomed because the networks have invested good money, acquired good talent and genre fans will reap the rewards.
Suddenly the networks will finally start doing it right.
[ .io9. ]