Syfy Touts Brand; Announces Slate

A year after announcing plans to jettison its longstanding brand, the network formerly known as Sci Fi Channel is touting the benefits of assuming the Syfy mantle.

The NBC Universal net is heading into its first upfront season since it officially changed its name to Syfy last July, and while many partisans sneered at the oddly spelled homophone, those behind the switch say it’s been great for business.

“In the past year, we’ve seen the positive impact and successful results of the ‘Syfy Effect,’” said Syfy president Dave Howe. “Our commitment to producing more and more high quality original programming that inspires the imagination of our consumers is providing advertisers with highly creative and innovative environments for their products.”

Howe went on to note that Syfy’s innovative sponsorship opportunities have paid off handsomely for its clients. For example, viewers who tuned in for the network’s “31 Days of Halloween” event were 53 percent more likely to purchase candy, per Nielsen IAG Research data. That collective sweet tooth was particularly encouraging for Hershey’s, a premiere sponsor of the seasonal programming stunt.

Hershey’s returns to Syfy in July, when its Twizzlers brand will be integrated within the narrative of returning series Warehouse 13. During its premiere season (summer 2009), Warehouse 13 was the most engaging new show on cable, among adults 25-54.

Speaking at the network’s March 16 upfront presentation in New York, Howe touched on a number of different examples of “the Syfy Effect,” which bundles additive metrics like recall and engagement with traditional ratings deliveries. Among the case studies that will be featured in Syfy’s upcoming trade campaign are an execution with the 20th Century Fox blockbuster Avatar; when placed on Syfy, ads for the film ranked tops in title recall and intent-to-view.

“In this upfront, we wanted to provide advertising partners with a memorable and quantifiable way to highlight what matters most––results,” Said Blake Callaway, svp, marketing, brand and strategic, Syfy. “The Syfy Effect shows the results of combining our extremely engaged consumers with other imaginative brands.”

Since the July 7 rebrand, Syfy has added a number of new clients from a variety of relevant categories, including: American Express, Apple, BMW, Ebay, Office Depot, Pepsico, Shell Oil and State Farm. As the upfront approaches, the network will look to boost its ad sales dollars as well. Per SNL Kagan, Syfy in a recession-rocked 2009 generated $348.1 million in net ad sales revenue, down 3 percent from its year-ago haul ($368.3 million).

While critics and fanboys initially met the rebrand with a fair amount of cynicism (more than one wag took to Twitter to argue that “Syfy” was evocative of the word “syphilis”), the network continued to put up big numbers last year. Syfy averaged 1.28 million total viewers in prime, good for eleventh place among all ad-supported cable nets, and flat versus its 2008 deliveries. Moreover, Syfy saw significant growth among more affluent viewers, notching a 17 percent increase among adults 18-49 with household income of $100,000, while lifting deliveries among adults 25-54 in that same tax bracket by 14 percent.

Next up for Syfy is a pair of new scripted series, an expansive slate of unscripted projects and a Thursday night reality block. Later this year, the network will take the wraps off Haven, a new mystery inspired by Stephen King’s 2005 novel The Colorado Kid. Haven stars Jericho alum Emily Rose. Also in the hopper is Being Human, a supernatural dramedy based on the BBC series of the same name. A hybrid of Friends, Buffy the Vampire slayer and The Groovie Ghoulies, the series features three monstrous flatmates (one’s a ghost, one’s a vampire and the third is a werewolf).

Looking further down the road, Syfy has also ordered a 90-minute pilot for the ironic superhero effort Three Inches. Developed by Twin Peaks writer/producer Harley Peyton, Three Inches features a telekinetic protagonist with very limited powers.

Syfy continues to put its support behind unscripted projects, renewing the series Destination Truth for a fourth season and re-imagining Ghost Hunters Academy as a competition series. Starting July 15, the network will unveil a programming block devoted exclusively to the genre, as Thursday nights will play host to the new series Mary Knows Best and Paranormal Investigators.

Leading the night off at 9 p.m., Mary Knows Best documents the life of a Long island medium/radio host named Mary Occhino. At 10 p.m., Paranormal Investigators offers viewers a look into the efforts of a professional debunker, a former FBI agent who uncovers the truth behind purported supernatural phenomena. Both are working titles.

At a later date, Mary and PI will be succeeded by Beast Legends, a strip that uses CGI to bring mythical monsters to life. Syfy presently has eight other new unscripted projects on the boil.

Finally, the people who brought you such over-the-top original movies as Ice Spiders, Flu Bird Horror and Rock Monster are cranking out a bunch of fresh flicks. The Syfy laboratory will give rise to no fewer than 14 new Saturday popcorn thrillers, including the bonkers hybrid Sharktopus, starring Eric Roberts; the toothy bloodbath Mega Piranha, featuring Barry “Greg Brady” Williams; and Stonehenge Apocalypse, which is pretty self-explanatory and stars CSI: NY’s Hill Harper.