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Archive for November 18th, 2014

A talk with the executives at Syfy

by on Nov.18, 2014, under Television

Recently as part of last month’s Syfy Press Tour, I had the chance to talk with some of the executives with Syfy, notably Dave Howe, President, and Bill McGoldrick, Executive Vice President for Original Programming, who had just joined the channel about a year earlier. They talked about where the channel is heading, trying to get back on track with genre programming.

First, I have to say, these guys take a lot of heat. Of course, someone has to be the lightning rod, and they are at the focal point. But they have to make a lot of hard business decisions and canceling a show is never good for those that watch it, but many complaints are from people who really don’t have any idea of how television works or how the programs they watch really get paid for. No network is going to keep a show that isn’t making money for them, just because what viewers it has are loyal. Loyalty doesn’t pay the bills. If it is borderline they may take a chance – but they need to get advertisers to pay. So many times I see, “They canceled X just so they could show wrestling and reality shows…I’m never watching Syfy again!” First off, such a statement is stupid. It means they are willing to not watch a great program just because they perceive that they were personally slighted. Aside from that, Syfy’s never canceled a show just to show wrestling or anything else. A show gets canceled because the advertisers won’t pay enough for it to be produced. In rare cases as show might be “profitable”, but if the margin is slim and can be improved by something else, it gets replaced.

It isn’t about pure ratings numbers either. Why would a scripted show that gets 2 million viewers per episode get canceled, to be replaced by a unscripted show that gets less than a million? Because that unscripted show is a LOT cheaper to produce, and therefore doesn’t need as many eyes watching it to have better profitability. Every network has done this, and it is a slippery slope (not helped that many were pushed down that slope by writers strikes a few times), but eventually there is a bounceback to original scripted programming as audiences tire of the heavy derivative reality stuff. Networks have learned more moderation is necessary in the mix of programming.
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