At Sci Fi Channel, hanging with aliens in outer space is passé. The channel built on intergalactic travel is now developing dramas set on terra firma.
It's looking for shows, says President Bonnie Hammer, that are "grounded on Earth, with a twist."
The anti-space strategy is a logical one for a maturing cable network, adds Starcom Media Entertainment Associate Director Kathryn Thomas. "They have broad distribution, a solid brand, and programming that speaks to their audience. Now, how do you broaden without losing that core?"
Sci Fi, 83.3 million subscribers strong, is often a top-10 rated cable channel. In the first quarter, it averaged 1.3 million viewers in prime time, up 9% from 2003. "There is definitely a bigger audience out there for them to own," says Thomas.
To seize audience share, Sci Fi is shifting focus. Its earthbound lineup includes Eureka, about a Pacific Northwest town where the government resettles the world's geniuses. Also Witchhunter Robin,
centering on cops tackling rogue witches. Aliens aren't forgotten, but they're aliens on Earth.
Sci Fi is crafting several series, including an unnamed project from film director Joel Schumacher (Batman & Robin) about aliens who land here to gather information for an invasion. Also under consideration: Anonymous Rex, about dinosaurs living among humans, and Dead Lawyers, a tale of ethically challenged dead lawyers who return to do good.
In the miniseries category, Sci Fi Channel is creating Farscape: Peacekeeper War, likely to run in October. And look for Earthsea, the life passage of a young wizard, starring Danny Glover and Isabella Rossellini, in the fourth quarter.
As promised, Taken
creator Steven Spielberg returns with the first chapter of Nine Lives, about nine people with near-death experiences, early next year. The trilogy airs in three six-hour chapters over three straight quarters. And, in the quest for the 18- to 34-year old viewer, Sci Fi offers Monster Smash, with monsters squaring off in the ring WWF-style.