Syfy’s Transmedia Gamble Defiance Gets Off on the Right Foot

200,000 pre-orders for game

Easily NBCUniversal’s biggest cable launch this year, the $100 million-plus science fiction series Defiance bowed last night to 2.73 million total viewers. That puts its far ahead of the season-to-date average for Smash on Syfy’s sibling network NBC.

According to a source, the network had 200,000 pre-orders for the game by the time Defiance hit GameStops and Best Buys on April 2. At $60 a pop, that gives Syfy and developer Trion Worlds $1.2 million back on their investment immediately, and the game continues to push against the reigning king of the gaming charts, BioShock: Infinite (no shame there—the latter was called the best game ever by a number of publications).

Syfy has a number of deep partnerships on the show—you will notice that a lot of people drive future-fitted Dodge vehicles and take refuge in Dodge dealerships—so much of the show’s mammoth expenditure should be under a certain amount of control already. But it needs to pull in plenty of eyeballs, and reliably. One of the most heartening things about the premiere of the series is the age skew—the 1.3 million 18-49 year-olds are comprise almost half of the Defiance audience, which bodes well for advertisers.

Defiance has a long way to go before the finish line, of course. But NBC has made it a huge promotional priority, and a very large interest in making sure it continues to bear fruit for the network. The series is now the anchor for Syfy’s new collection of green-lights, many of which have the kind of pedigree that prickly science fiction fans have loudly longed for. In the coming year, expect to see a new show from Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore, sci-fi adaptations galore (in-house ones this time, not cheap imports) and several weird, Vonnegutian reality series.