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Sci-Fi April 19th, 2005 09:46 PM

Sci Fi universe colonizes brave new worlds
 
From USA Today:

Sci Fi universe colonizes brave new worlds

By Gary Levin, USA TODAY

4/19/2005

Sci Fi Channel got a rocket boost from space series, and the cable network now hopes to lure new viewers by embracing a broader range of fantasy, pointing to the success of Harry Potter, top-selling video game Halo and TV's Lost.

The makeover is aimed at "redefining and changing the misperception of what sci-fi is," says Bonnie Hammer, president of the NBC Universal-owned channel.

"It's speculative fiction, it's escapism, it's fantasy. It's not just space and aliens."

Adds general manager David Howe: "This is a very broad, popular mainstream genre. This isn't a niche, narrow network."

Taken, an ambitious 20-hour miniseries from Steven Spielberg, gave Sci Fi new prominence, averaging a record5 million viewers over 10 nights in December 2002.

The ratings halo has persisted. Sci Fi is averaging 1.3 million viewers in prime time this year, its biggest three-month period since the one that included Taken.

Among the 18-to-49 age group prized by advertisers, Sci Fi is up 11%, ranking seventh among all basic-cable networks.

"They've been really successful in the shift toward more general but distinct entertainment," says analyst Tom Weeks of Starcom, an ad-buying firm.

"They are reinvesting a lot of their profits into original programming. The strategy is working," says Kagan Research's Derek Baine. Sci Fi's programming budget has nearly doubled in the past five years, supporting three nights of original programming: reality shows on Wednesdays, space dramas on Fridays and original movies on Saturdays, Baine says.

And the network has reeled in a broader audience, including more women, than the stereotypical male sci-fi fan who lives in his parents' basement.

Actor Michael Douglas is behind one of several new projects being considered for next year. He is executive producer of a drama series about the late author Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House). Described as a cross between Desperate Housewives and The Twilight Zone, the series mixes supernatural tales with Jackson's own saga, "a family drama about the unconventional life of an urban clan living in small-town Vermont," says Mark Stern, chief of original programming.

Other pilots vying for spots on the schedule include a remake of Time Tunnel, ABC's short-lived 1966 series, and several superhero tales. Heroes Anonymous is based on the comic-book series, about a team that forms a support group in a quest to discover their true identities; Painkiller Jane has a butt-kicking action hero; and action drama Those Who Walk in Darkness is based on John Ridley's novel about a SWAT team that hunts rogue superpower types.

The six-hour miniseries The Triangle (as in Bermuda) is on tap for December, and another Spielberg saga, Nine Lives, remains in development.

Sci Fi's best ratings remain on Fridays, when Battlestar Galactica and two Stargate series, SG-1 and spinoff Atlantis, have sometimes bested UPN's better-known Star Trek: Enterprise saga, which is ending next month. The Sci Fi series all return for new seasons in July.

Wednesdays are led this summer by a new season of Ghost Hunters, a reality series featuring a team of plumbers turned nighttime ghostbusters. Also due: a second season of animated Tripping the Rift, a sci-fi sendup that adds Carmen Electra to its voice cast. New Master Blasters is about "two teams of amateur rocket scientists who launch strange things into space," says Stern — as in a Mini Cooper, a La-Z-Boy and an outhouse.

:salute: :Nsalute:

jewels April 19th, 2005 09:51 PM

OK, isn't The Triangle, Bryan Singer's project for them?? Or did he have to pass on it when Superman came up? Just wondering if he got done with the mini before he started the quest for the man who could wear the blue tights and cape.

Sci-Fi April 19th, 2005 09:58 PM

Not sure. Only know it's being filmed in South Africa and:

Triangle: SFC: Telefilm: Dean Devlin and Rockne S. Obannon (Farscape creator) are teaming up with the Sci-Fi Channel for an six hour mini-series (airing in three parts) titled "The Triangle". The mini will be set against the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle as a group of desperate people are haunted by their experiences with it. Rockne S. Obannon will pen the script, with Devlin producing. One director will have to handle the entire 6 hours - he'll just be producing.

warhammerdriver April 25th, 2005 06:15 PM

Bonnie's having another makeover of SciFi done? When is she gonna learn? The only night worth watching is Friday. The rest of the week is, in a word, pathetic.

Fragmentary April 26th, 2005 12:29 AM

Well at least they finally have a night that is worth watching. Sci-fi is small niche cable network and its growth is going to reflect that. They don't have a lot of money and they're never going to have a lot of viewers, so developing one night every season or two isn't really that bad.

From a business standpoint, Hammer has been very successful building the ratings for the channel.


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