AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
Syfy's programs its line-up differently every night of the week, with no strips or similar fare to carry viewers across the week.
Mondays have shifted to female-skewing GHOST WHISPERER, picked up in syndication, although Syfy has been trying out alternative programming (movies, STAR TREK, WAREHOUSE 13 encores), HAVEN encores) on that night. Tuesday is a big night in summer, when originals lead into wrestling, but the night has been about encores and syndicated fare throughout the rest of the year. Wrestling moves to Friday nights in October, and Friday's dramas will move to Tuesday. Wednesday is a female-skewing night, where the GHOST HUNTERS franchise and Syfy original female skewing paranormal fare can be found. Thursdays, arguably Syfy's least-successful night of the week, used to be movies. The network changed direction this summer with the launch of a night of reality programs loosely based on science fiction. Fridays are still debut night of original programming for now. Saturdays and Sundays are all movies, including the successful SYFY ORIGINAL MOVIES premiering every-other Saturday at 9PM.
AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2010 vs. August 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
August 2010: August was an important month for Syfy. There were new initiatives, strategies and programs nearly every night of the week as the network strives to move its branding and its audience forward. Bottom line, the Monday - Sunday demo ratings were mixed vs. last year and up slightly vs. last month. The audience's median age was the oldest we've seen, but Syfy achieved its best household and men 18-49 ratings since fourth quarter 2009. However, looking at the bottom line hides what was going on each night.
On Mondays, Syfy has been playing with the line-up, changing out STAR TREK for GHOST WHISPERER and accordingly, men for women. In recent months movies and encores of original dramas moved in on occasional Monday nights. Generally, movies make better lead-ins to the dramas than female-skewing GHOST WHISPERER, but Syfy still has some work to do before getting the Monday night mix right.
Tuesday night was all about WAREHOUSE 13, as WWE NXT enters its final months. Premiere episodes of WAREHOUSE 13 accounted for the number one, number two and number three top-rated telecasts among men 18-49 for the month. However, the story isn't all good; WAREHOUSE 13 has lost some of its luster. The premiere telecasts this month underperformed last month's. Compared to last month the total program average (including encores) underperformed on core men 25-54 by 11%, and compared to last year it was off by 20%.
On Wednesday nights, GHOST HUNTERS was back with long-awaited new episodes starting August 25th. That telecast rose to the top of the ratings charts among women, bested only by an original movie. Before that, new episodes from the second season of GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL were trying to hold up the night, but until the new ep. of GHOST HUNTERS hit the air, Wednesdays underperformed last year by about 30%.
Syfy is taking a new direction on low-rated Thursday nights with reality programming replacing movies and encores. When the network announced their new strategy, it was with an emphasis on expanding the science fiction genre and framing it in reality programming. The programs that were first announced featured strong personalities with expertise loosely (we're being kind) related to sci-fi - cooking, feng shui, special effects, magic. July was the launch of the new Thursday nights, and MARY KNOWS BEST, a show following Mary Occhino, a radio host, psychic intuitive and mother. The program tanked in its second week, and was off the primetime line-up in August. PARANORMAL FILES was more in line with standard sci-fi fare, and not surprisingly, it resonated much better with viewers. The theme of the night seems to have been reined in, with newly announced under-development reality programs sticking to unexplained myths, creatures and legends. (UFO, BEAST LEGENDS). In fact, DESTINATION TRUTH was trotted out to anchor the night at 8PM. There was really nowhere to go but up on Thursday nights. So far, the night is doing relatively well with younger men, showing big improvements vs. both last year and last month, and pulling in strong comps (if not strong ratings) on that demo.
Friday was original drama again, with EUREKA and HAVEN. Together, they have helped Friday nights pull in 22% better household ratings than last year, with most of the demo growth coming from the younger 18-49 set. Last year Syfy was airing EUREKA and encores of WAREHOUSE 13. In its fourth season, EUREKA is doing well, up on households and men 18-49 vs. both last month and last year. The program has developed a male skew, and typically outperforms lead-out program HAVEN. HAVEN has a balanced 50/50 male/female skew, but has lost about 20% of its demo audience vs. last month when it debuted. Despite Syfy's efforts, HAVEN is no breakout hit.
On the weekends, acquired theatricals and original movies continue to do well, with August pulling in exceptionally strong numbers from original movie Lake Placid 3, which according to Syfy was "the most watched Syfy telecast since GHOST HUNTERSs (October 2009) and the most watched Saturday Original Movie since Lake Placid 2 (April 2007), based on Live +Same Day data. During its August 21 premiere from 9-11PM (ET/PT), Lake Placid 3 was the #1 ranked cable program in prime (8-11PM) among Adults 25-54."
Acquired theatricals were also strong, with titles like Jules Vernes Mysterious Island, Meteor Apocalypse and The Fifth Element rising to the top.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
The question we are left with is, "who does Syfy want to be?"
Syfy continues to evolve, with the "Imagine Greater" tagline working as both network branding and as a call to producers to push the limits on the programming they bring to the network. They are working to define and find audience for the three different genres of original programming: scripted dramas, reality and movies, not afraid to break the mold and try new formats. However, we see a consistent theme - the programming that sticks closest to traditional sci-fi fare pulls in bigger audiences. This was proven with the network's attempts with reality programming Thursday nights, and also with theatricals. For instance, this month blockbuster fare like Mission Impossible doesn't do as well as Meteor Apocalypse with Syfy's sci-fi loyal audience.
To further muddy the programming waters, with no strip programming to act as a base or a steady foundation, each night of the week Syfy seems to target a different audience. Mondays and Wednesdays are female, Tuesdays are older males and Thursdays are younger males. Fridays lean male, but are becoming more balanced, and the weekend movies can go either way. This strategy covers the gamut, but forces audiences to work at remembering when to tune in.