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September 16, 2014

Space: What Sci-Fi Channel should be (or was)

by Richard Keller, posted Jul 14th 2006 6:39PM

Space channel's HypaSpaceIt's no secret that some of us over here at the palatial TV Squad offices are a bit confused by the recent scheduling decisions that have been handed down by the Sci-Fi Channel's executives over the past few months. I mean, other than the shows that are part of the Sci-Fi Friday block, a good portion of the schedule is filled with cheesy made-for-tv movies, reruns of creepy Law & Order: SVU episodes and, for a reason only known to the executives of Sci-Fi and Universal, Extreme Championship Wrestling.

So, while visiting Toronto I found it refreshing to watch the Canadian equivalent of Sci-Fi Channel known simply as Space. Why? Because it wasn't showing ECW, or Law & Order episodes, or movies about killer gophers. Amazingly, it was actually showing science fiction programming. All right, there were some horror based programs and movies (pretty much on Friday nights only), and there were a few new age types of shows, but for the most part it was all science-fiction and fantasy.

In fact, if you take a look at the shows listed on their website you can see the variety of programs that they offer, which is pretty much every single science-fiction, fantasy and supernatural show made in the last 20 years. It ranges from classics like Star Trek (in fact, all of the Star Trek incarnations, except DS9 for some reason), short run series like Earth 2 and Firefly, current shows like Stargate SG-1, The 4400 and Battlestar Galactica British imports such as Hex, and Canadian productions like 11 Somerset and 5th Quadrant.

In addition to these first and re-run shows, Space has something that Sci-Fi Channel doesn't have: shows about the science fiction and fantasy industry. One show in particular is called HypaSpace, which focuses on interviews and stories about television, movies, video games, and action figures. On the particular weekend I was in Canada HypaSpace featured interviews for on A Scanner Darkly and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as reviews of PotC video games and action figures. While attending the TT20 science fiction convention a HypaSpace film crew sat right next to me in the media room interviewing stars such as Richard Hatch and George Takei.

Sci-Fi Channel should be like this. Get rid of ECW and reruns of Frankenfish and start pulling sci-fi, supernatural, and fantasy shows from the vast Universal library. Don't rely on the web for original programming; put some industry-based shows over the air. And, for pete's sake, grab the Star Trek series from channels like Spike and G4, where they really don't belong. Do this and Sci-Fi Friday viewership may expand into other days of the week.

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the Soul Hunter

i disagree with the part of people who watch a show staying around after that show is gone.
example, i used to watch the X-files, i liked it, but when fox dropped Brisco County jr, i stopped watching the X-files.

the only reason i got cable tv to start with was because Babylon 5 was picked up by TNT.
the creator of B5 was working on another show set in the B5 universe so i kept cable, after the BAS****S at TNT murdered Crusade i all most dropped cable. i may yet drop my cable if the SciFi channel keeps going the way it is, Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, & a few others on the SciFi channel are the only reason im keeping it, if they go, my cable is gone.

ECW is fiction, but it is NOT science fiction, just like law & order,.. i refuse to watch either, on any channel!

August 20 2006 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SylvreWolfe

I don't understand what is going on inside the tiny brains of the programming department at Skiffy. I have heard that ECW was brought in to *save* Skiffy. Skiffy didn't need saving. The ratings on Skiffy have been consistently going up over the years. Farscape was the first series they had that topped 1.0 in the Nielsons After Farscape came SG1, which gets even better ratings. Sometime later Skiffy brought in BSG, with even better ratings. And Eureka looks to be outdoing them. Skiffy doesn't need to broaden its programming to include L&O or wrasslin, it needs to go back to doing scifi.

July 22 2006 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Montgomery Lopez

I was also curious with the introduction of Passions (Spike's favorite show to watch on Buffy) and ECW in the evening, I was thinging what FRAK was going on? Since I am currently working on my MBA with a specialization in marketing, it became clear why this happened. In one of the classes there was dicussion about the product life cycle. There are 4 phases, introduction, growth, mature, decline. The Scifi channel falls under the mature phases. In this phases the target audience has already been reached. So to increase new viewers, new programming has to be added in this case to the scifi channel. Adding Passions looks to those who watch daytime tv and hope that once Passions is over that the viewer stays with the channel during the day. The opposite with be true with ECW as viewers would stay to watch the nightime programming.
From a marketing point of view, I agree with this action. As a fan of the Scifi channel, I believe they are watering down the content that I onced love. I agree we should see less Frankenfish and Mansquito but bring back classic Scifi and other related programming. For example, G4TV offer great programming in the video gaming industry. Cartoon Network and Boomerang offer cartoons I grew up with which could easily added back or even Anime. In addition, I would love to see scifi from around the world to broaden my horizons. All these ideas would keep the Scifi channel from changing its identity but rather keep on evolving as a leading cable channel.

'nuff said.

July 22 2006 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gary

I watched the sci-fi channel on a 16 foot fiverglass dish I bought used and installed myself. It was only on air about 1/2 a day. It was started by sci-fi fans for sci-fi fans. It did well even though some thought it would not. Now NBC thinks it can do better at running it than has been done in the past. Just look at how wonderfull things are when big business takes over the smaller ons in America. This is called progress by some. Re-inventing the wheel, making it better when all it needs is to be round. "build a better mouse trap and no body buys, have a million dollar funeral and nobody crys". Stay with the basics that work and keep it simple always works the best. NBC is messing up a good thing.

July 22 2006 at 12:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kane

SciFi needs to budget according to it's niche in the market. It's not a category of programming that will provide quarter-on-quarter earnings growth. NBC, the owner, shouldn't try to hold it to competitive network standards. Earning a dedicated viewing audience and controlling costs should provide a dependable source of revenue and help bail out their other networks when they have poor performing financial periods. By sacrificing scifi programming for wrestling and other unrelated shows they'll loose their dedicated viewers who will surf to more intriging shows or head for book store (a great option).

They do seem to be doing a fair job holding viewers with new programming in the genre but it could really do itself some justice by mixing in more classics rather than going to alternative programs. Here's a partial list to choose from:

http://www.tv.com/science-fiction/genre/10/az.html?g=10

How many opportunites are being missed? There are some other great British and Aussie classics to choose from too. A (and I only mean one, maybe two) reality or documentary type show on the genre could also help. The first things I head to on a DVD are the special features.

Keep it real SciFi Channel and you'll contine to be the first thing I go to when I get the TV guide in the Sunday paper or pick up a remote. Otherwise, I've got a great book to get back to.

July 19 2006 at 8:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kelly J. Compeau

Luke, that show you're referring to, with the 2 hosts and the robot is called "Spacebar" and it's written, produced & hosted by the same folks who now put together that weekly "HypaSpace" news program that Richard mentioned. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0284786/

Also, Richard, the reason why Space doesn't air ST: DS9 is because they lost the rights to air the series. They had it for a while, though, and maybe they will again, someday soon.

KJC (who is addicted to the Space channel and hopes to work there someday)
http://www.myspace.com/showbizprgirl

July 18 2006 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Jeremy

The SciFi Channel really makes me groan at times, but at least they did pick up *Doctor Who* in America...now if they'll announce when they will be airing "Season 2", I will be happy. The Canadian Space Channel does not have *Doctor Who* since the CBC has it. Since the CBC is the co-producer with the BBC on *Doctor Who*, they might have first rights to the series in North America, and they delayed televising Season2 until the hockey season is over. Thus the earliest SciFi could also televise it would be in October if such a scenario would play out. I really wish SciFi would jump in as another co-producer on the show to pump up the budget and crank out more than 13 episodes per year.

*Hex* is being televised in America on BBC America. The show finished in the UK. Hopefully, it will get the lovely Jemima Rooper noticed in Hollywood.

For a reality series, I do like *Ghost Hunters* so I won't fault SciFi for that. While they should have *The 4400* and *The Dead Zone*, both series are being televised on SciFi's sister channel - and one that is on basic cable in more markets than SciFi - the USA Network.

I would like to chime in and state that I wished SciFi had more industry specific coverage...similar to say what TechTV did for its industry (before the abomination known as G4 bought it out). Not as much converage, but at least some. Have a couple of channel personalities which would not be unheard of since SpikeTV has their own people to "host" movies. Hell, get Joe Bob Briggs, Bruce Campbell, and/or Martin Sargent to host SciFi's shlock original pictures. Now that would be a genre television triumvirate if you ask me!

A SciFi HD Channel is also greatly needed.

And finally, I'd really like to see NBC Universal buy up G4 from Comcast and bring back TechTV. It would be a complementary channel to USA and SciFi, not to mention the ShopNBC Channel. All of NBC's tech briefings on their news programming could rely upon the restored TechTV staff for such reports.

Well, that's my $0.03 on the subject.

Oh...almost forgot... a SciFi Classics Channel. For old BSG, old Dark Shadows, old Doctor Who, Kolchak, etc. If there can be a BET Jazz Channel, there certainly should be a SciFi Classics Channel.

July 17 2006 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dvddesign

The Sci-Fi Channel has ALWAYS struggled to find itself.

For a network, it started off strong, showing classic movies, (Indiana Jones and the TOD, Star Wars, Star Trek) but those get expensive, and inevitably diminishing returns in ratings.

Then came the buying years. Scifi was our savior, buying out every cancelled TV series and giving it a new lease on life. Notables were Sliders and MST3K. This ended poorly when Bonnie Hammer decided that it was Tuesday and that meant they had to go.

Then there was the expensive but good original programming. Farscape, first wave, etc. They weren't bad shows, but suffered from high production costs and
low ratings. I mean, Sci-Fi has a long track record of cancelling/losing their biggest shows. Everytime.

Now, they do have some stellar original programming with Dr. Who and BSG, but that's not going to bring a whole channel around.

They have had Star Trek in the past, and they did the same as G4, gussying it up with bonus features and crap. They never did get STTNG, since TNN/Spike has had it since the dawn of time.

When Uni/NBC has come full circle and decides to actually program SciFi competently, they'd do well to yank the programming they have on their sister networks and plug it into SciFi's schedule. Put 4400 and Dead Zone on the block.

For the future, Sci-Fi needs to get some low budget TV shows in the pipeline, or geek culture shows. Get some exclusives early before they take off on another network. Grab "IT Crowd", "Red Dwarf", Old Dr. Who, Blake 7, something.

July 17 2006 at 10:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
don barajas

yes, yes, yes , you are absolutely right. ive been saying this for the longest time. i go to my cable guide
for sci-fi and as soon as i see what they are showing at that exact time tells me if i will or will not be tuning
in today. i actually thought they ran the ad for ECW on
the wrong channel. i truly cannot for one second figure
out why they cant go into " the vault " and show sci-fi
material. i cant resist this , go to the horror part
of the vault and grab every thing you can on horror.
if you dont, your going to be locked inside w/ all the
movies , all by yourself , all w/ no viewing and sci-
fi will fade. please do it NOW. PLEASE... H.G. WELLS
AND H.P. LOVECRAFT.....R.I.P. DON BARAJAS

July 17 2006 at 12:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jimmy

OK, CCK, the wrestling gets ratings, but I have to disagree that no one watched the channel before. When SciFi better utlized their resources to make great mini-series like Dune, Children of Dune, and to a lesser extent EarthSea they got Closer-type ratings. According to SciFi, their creature features draw about two million viewers, and yeah that's great for cheap-quality creature features, but imagine what they could draw with better quality science fiction and fantasy! There are damn good sf/fantasy novels and short stories out there that could be made cheaply in Canada or Eastern Europe, so the idea they can only purchase these cheap, crappy horror films is just silly. The real problem here is NBC. Since they purchased SciFi, along with all the Universal cable networks, SciFi has suffered. USA, also part of NBC Universal, on the other hand has done quite well and seen the increase in ratings with good, quality programming. If you put good stuff out there, people will watch, and there are a lot of people who enjoy SciFi, otherwise the Channel's mini-series wouldn't draw five to six million viewers.

For every Battlestar Galactica we get the absurd Who Wants to Be a Superhero, a Ghost Hunters, and 10 creature features. Fortunately, SciFi may be realizing this. Eureka and the upcoming Harry Dresden (based on a great series of novels by Jim Butcher) look quite good. I don't think SciFi has to have great, original programming on every night, but with a competitive cable market that could become more difficult if the FCC forces a-la-carte programming they need to do a better job with what they have.

July 15 2006 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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