This has to be good news to any fan of Stargate or quality science fiction: Syfy Channel, the cable network that took a lot of heat for changing its name and effectively walking away from the genre a few years ago, wants to get back in the game.
The network wants to do fewer procedurals and B-movies and more traditional, scripted science fiction drama — be it regular series or high-profile mini-series events.
This is according to a new story at The Hollywood Reporter.
“We want to be the best science-fiction channel that we possibly can, and in some respects, that means going back to the more traditional sci-fi/fantasy that fans often say they feel we’ve exited,” Syfy president Dave Howe told the site. “We’re going to occupy that space in a way we haven’t for the past few years.”
Execs said that shows like Defiance (which returns in June) and Helix provide a model for what the network wants to do more of going forward — and less of the light-hearted, procedural fare that the network has come to be known for over the last half-decade, such as Warehouse 13 (which ends this year) and Haven.
The network also has a priority to get back into outer space, Syfy’s new executive vice president of original content Bill McGoldrick said.“That’s the way to send a message in a big way that we’re back and we care about sci-fi,” he said. “There is enormous pressure to get that back, because we used to own it. And we’re going to own it again.”
Syfy’s first move is Ascension, a mini-series (with the potential to become a regular show) described as part Battlestar Galactica and part Downton Abbey, which will follow a shuttle of colonists fleeing an Earth threatened by the early Cold War.
The network is said to be closing the deal for Ascension now, with an eye toward the fourth quarter.
It is less clear how much unscripted “reality” fare Syfy will continue to develop. Show such as Ghost Hunters, Face-Off, and less successful offerings have been the channel’s bread and butter for some time now.
While B-movies are not currently a priority, that doesn’t mean they will fall off the air entirely. The modest-budget productions still typically draw around 2 million viewers. Last year’s Sharknado was a mega-hit in social media and multiple repeats, and will be followed with a sequel this summer. Howe said he will cut back on the 20 to 24 original movies that Syfy does each year, but will probably make Sharknado an annual event.
What Syfy is eventually looking for is the next breakout cable hit, like HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s The Walking Dead. The network is painfully aware that these riskier shows that turned into monster hits (in ratings and social buzz, and in critical acclaim and awards) are both located squarely in its genre.
Syfy hasn’t had a breakout hit since Battlestar Galactica left the air in 2009. Its shows typically draw between 1 and 2 million live viewers. Compare that with The Walking Dead, which recently scored more than 15 million with its mid-season premiere.
There is also a future for international co-productions and acquisitions. Syfy has found success in the traditional sci-fi genre with Canadian imports like Continuum and Lost Girl. Since such shows are partially or fully financed by their home networks abroad, Syfy can pick up exclusive first-run rights in the U.S. for a modest price.
Other scripted dramas at some stage of development at Syfy include Dominion (to premiere this year), High Moon, 12 Monkeys (both at the pilot stage), Hunters, Orion, and several others. Watch GateWorld’s sister site, SciFi Stream, for the latest developments.
This story also appeared at SciFi Stream.
What do you think of Syfy’s plans for a change in direction?