Transcript of Conference Call with Syfy president Dave Howe: Keep an eye out for “Sharktopus!”
I listened in on a part of this call before my phone spazzed, but here is a very long transcript with Syfy president Dave Howe with hardly any mention of Stargate Universe (there are a couple of mentions and references to “space operas”” though). But the “S-H-A-R-K-T-O-P-U-S” bit kinda made it all worthwhile.
Coordinator: Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. During the question and answer session please press star 1 on your touchtone phone. Today’s conference is being recorded, if you have any objections you may disconnect at this time.
Now I’ll turn the meeting over to Mr. Dave Howe.
Dave Howe: Hi. Great talking to everybody again. I think last time we did this was around six months ago just after we launched our brand evolution just after July 7. And I just want to say how excited we are to be able to kind of come back six months later and talk to you about, you know, some of the things that have happened over the last six months, some of our successes.
I’m looking at a draft press release actually they just gave me which has a list of some of our best evers. And, you know, just toward I think everything that we set out to achieve six months ago seems to be heading in the right direction which is very reassuring and gratifying.
And I’d also like to kind of, you know, thank on behalf of all of you all of our, you know, viewers, and all the people that take an interest in everything that we do – I want to thank you guys personally for all of your support and all of the amazing coverage that you’ve given us over the six months.
And, you know, look forward to hopefully an even bigger and better 2010. And that’s kind of all I wanted to say because I’m sure you’ll ask me more questions around some of the details so I’ll throw it back to you, (Chrissy), to kick in with the first question.
Chrissy Fehskens: Sure, Dave, while our participants are dialing themselves into the question queue I wanted to start off with a question that was submitted by our digital network partners at Eclipse Magazine. Their editorial director, Michelle Alexandria, writes that Syfy has been on a roll lately and would like to know what you think accounts for that success.
Dave Howe: I think that’s a great question, I mean, people always ask me that question. People always say, I mean, people often say do you attribute the success to your brand evolution? And of course the answer to that is no, not exclusively. I think it’s a core part of what we set out to achieve. But ultimately, you know, we’re in the business of creating great content and great shows.
And I think the primary driver of our success has been, you know, Warehouse 13 which, you know, was our biggest TV series hit in our 17-year history, Stargate Universe which, you know, we launched and has done incredibly well, Tactics, Ghost Hunters. I think without exception every single one of our returning series that we brought back this year had its best year ever which is really great.
But I think what the brand evolution has done for us is I think it has done what we set out to achieve which is given people permission to reevaluate us, to come and sample us. It makes more sense the range and diversity of programming that we’ve been doing for the last, you know, two or three years or so, it makes more sense of the Ghost Hunters and the Destination Truth and the Scare Tactics and the Warehouse 13.
And it just creates that unique tone of voice, that unique personality, that unique kind of identity that gives more people permission to come check it out and doesn’t define us in the narrower perception kind of way that, you know, the in the past Syfy has always been attributed to.
Chrissy Fehskens: Thanks Dave. I think we can now start taking questions out of our question queue. Moderator, please go ahead.
Coordinator: Thank you. Troy Rogers with the deadbolt.com.
Troy Rogers: Hi Dave, how are you?
Dave Howe: Good thanks, how are you doing?
Troy Rogers: Good. Thanks for taking the time, I appreciate it.
Dave Howe: Thanks for inviting me.
Troy Rogers: Now you guys changed the title of the network I just wanted to know can you talk about how the brand has already made significant changes?
Dave Howe: In terms of our programming, in terms of our marketing or what do you mean specifically?
Troy Rogers: Programming.
Dave Howe: In terms of programming I think, you know, as I said six months ago a lot of this predated the brand evolution launch. You know, we – I think on the last – in the last three to five years have really kind of driven a strategy to drive new eyeballs to the network, to bring in more younger viewers, more gender balanced set of viewers. To take our viewers more upscale and to create a, you know, range of content that’s going to appeal to everyone.
Not necessarily everyone all the time, but at some point on our schedule there will be something that, you know, works for you, that says to you, you know, this is not a channel that is, you know, not for me that is kind of narrow and just about space opera. This is a channel that’s speculative, that’s imaginative, that does shows that are unique, that are different out there.
And I think, you know, what you’ll see next year in our programming and to some extent actually I think Caprica epitomizes that. You’re going to see shows that people don’t expect from us, shows that yes tackle speculative subject matter but tackle it in a way that is very accessible and relatable. Characters that you recognize, that you can relate to, you know, shows that have a sense of humor that, you know, have a warmth and an optimism as well as thought-provoking kind of veneer to them as well.
And I’m more excited now by our development than I’ve ever been. I think (Mark Stern) and his development team have done an amazing job pushing the envelope, pushing the boundaries and basically doing what we’ve all tasked ourselves to do which is to imagine greater around the kind of shows that we’ve been doing in the past and will be doing in the future.
Troy Rogers: Excellent. Now Syfy recently launched Outer Space Astronauts. I wanted to know what was behind the decision to get into comedy and will the network add more comedies?
Dave Howe: Well this isn’t the first kind of comedic show that we’ve done. I think several years ago we had a show on there called Tripping the Rift which was a, you know, a 3D animation which was a kind of satirical look at all things sci fi fantasy which actually did very well for us.
But the problem when we launched Tripping the Rift I think, you know, four or five years ago we didn’t have – we didn’t have an audience base that could sustain a show like Tripping the Rift on its own. I think, you know, we didn’t really have a major 18-34 demo coming to the network regularly.
I don’t think people anticipated or expected, you know, comedy from us. And I think we wanted to do Outer Space Astronauts to send out that message about the brand evolution, that this isn’t what you would expect from Syfy.
You know, it’s a, you know, it’s a kind of a smart sophisticated, you know, almost kind of Office in space kind of show. And it’s something that we really wanted to experiment with and take a risk with and I think you’ll see more shows next year that, you know, if you ask me directly do I think it’s going to be a breakout hit? Chances are I won’t know; none of us will know.
But I think it’s in our interest to, you know, push the button and see what works and what doesn’t work and learn from that and apply it to our future development.
Troy Rogers: Okay great…
Dave Howe: Did you like Tripping the Rift – not Tripping the Rift, Outer Space Astronauts?
Troy Rogers: Yeah actually I like them both. They’re really funny.
Dave Howe: Excellent.
Troy Rogers: One more quick thing, can you talk about Stephen King’s the Colorado Kid? Well you guys renamed it the Haven. But what can fans expect from that?
Dave Howe: I think we’re very excited about Haven. You know, we’ve always wanted to work with Stephen King on a series. You know, his miniseries that we have in our library have always done well for us. He’s obviously, you know, a flagship name in the business.
And I think the opportunity around Haven is it’s very significant. I think it’s a very cool concept. I think it’s very relevant to today. I think the characters and the situation – you know, I’ve only read one script, the pilot script, you know, it’s very impressive.
I think it has all of the attributes that we want in any series, it has characters that you can relate to, it’s set in the here and now. You know, it has an underlying, you know, mystique and intrigue and suspense. And it tackles subjects which I think are going to be pretty diverse on a week to week basis. I mean it has a lot of elements that we’re really excited about.
Troy Rogers: And you have producers from the Dead Zone on there, that’s – that was intentional I guess right?
Dave Howe: I think we wanted to obviously put the people on the show that we really knew could help us figure it out. You know, it’s an exciting concept. I think Stephen King is excited about it. I’m not sure how involved he can be given all of his other commitments. But it’s a very unique concept and I think we’re excited to see where we can take it.
It’s also interestingly at first kind of international initiative. I think this is potentially a game changer for Syfy. There are 50 Syfy networks now around the globe. And, you know, with that comes economies of scale around program production and marketing and distribution and scheduling and all the rest of it.
And I think Haven will be the first – our first co-pro with our international sister channels. And we’re looking to do more of that in the future.
Troy Rogers: Cool. All right, thanks Dave.
Dave Howe: Thank you.
Coordinator: Michael Hinman, Airlock Alpha.
Michael Hinman: Hello Mr. Howe and thanks for joining us this afternoon I guess. I don’t even know what time of day it is anymore.
Michael Hinman: I just – I know that with the success of some of the shows like, I mean, Warehouse 13, the ratings have just been phenomenal and I think that it was great seeing that Stargate Universe and Sanctuary were doing so well in the fall when it’s competing against network television.
But it seems that a lot of the attention is being focused on Caprica I think because of its connection to Battlestar Galactica and everything about it. I mean is there anything special that you guys are doing to try to really bring that to audience’s attention coming in January?
Dave Howe: That’s funny you should say that and ask that question Michael. We couldn’t have planted a better question for you. Yes we are actually. And one of the things that we wanted to announce on this call today is we’re doing something – we’re doing something with Caprica that we’ve never done before.
And I don’t think many other networks – certain cable networks have tried is we’re going to – and it’s going to happen today – we’re going to make Caprica available to stream anywhere that people are prepared to, you know, carry the link to it.
So the pilot episode, about a two hour pilot that was released on DVD nine months ago as of today will be available to anybody who wants to watch it to stream it – are we there?
It’s been family friendly-ized.
Dave Howe: Yes, this is going to be the PG13 version of the DVD. Those of you who’ve watched it will recognize the first 10 minutes, you know, are quite challenging content wise. But we’re very excited about it. And I think it speaks to what we want to do with Caprica.
The anticipation – you’re right – the anticipation and the buzz around that show have been like none other as it should be. And I think the more people that we can encourage to watch that pilot and then come into the series the better off we’ll be.
And we’re also going to make available to everybody on the digital network and beyond materials – (Dana) who’s on this call and the marketing team have put together, you know, exclusive video content that will give you access to it that you can host on your site that will enable you to have something that, you know, your viewers can come to and experience just through you.
Michael Hinman: Now is – so when we have Caprica come in January is it going to start with the pilot or are we actually going to start after the pilot in terms of broadcasting?
Dave Howe: We’re going to start with the pilot. It’s a two-hour pilot premiere. So the pilot will be slightly different than the DVD version and the streaming version so we have reshot a few scenes. We’ve added additional elements; we’ve upgraded some of the special effects which are from the first pilot.
And we’ve tried to kind of use it as that platform for the, you know, the episodic series that will kick in the following week.
Michael Hinman: Is there concern then that having all of – like having the DVD out nine months ago, having the streaming operations and then trying to air the episode and this being where everybody’s keeping an eye on numbers – I mean, obviously that’s going to have an effect on your opening audience numbers, because a lot of people have already watched it and might not watch it again, you know, and wait until the first new episode.
I mean do you think that that might actually skew numbers a little bit?
Dave Howe: I think it could and we’ve talked about it endlessly. You know, it’s the risk that we took when we released it on DVD first. It’s the risk we’re now taking releasing it to be streamed. I think in this climate with the audience that we have it’s the absolutely the right thing to do.
You know, we have this amazing early adopter, you know, techno-savvy audience that isn’t going to always watch, you know, linear live TV in the same way that other network audiences do. I think this is the kind of, you know, media consumption of the future and we want to be at the forefront of that.
It could have an impact and probably will have an impact on the premiere ratings which, you know, I’m looking at (Sally) now, we’re obviously going to have to manage expectations. Because you’re right, there are some people who don’t need to come in for that pilot episode even though there will be, you know, never before seen footage in there.
But, you know, what you’ll also get in that pilot episode, you know, is an amazing super-tease that really kind of sets up and gets you excited about the series, that really creates a sense of the momentum and the drive and the storylines that you’re going to see in that period.
And I think it’s a kind of a great theme-setter, it’s a great theme-setter for the following week’s episode.
We’re also – and we’ve not really done this before in the past – we’re also diverting a significant amount of our marketing off-air spend against the second episodes to try and keep that momentum going across those two weeks.
And it’s a, you know, it’s going to be an interesting marketing challenge and a learning curve for us. And I think we’re excited to do it and see what we can learn from it.
Michael Hinman: Excellent. Thank you Mr. Howe, I appreciate it.
Dave Howe: Thank you Michael. Nice to talk to you.
Coordinator: Keita Browne with Film Monthly Magazine.
Keita Browne: Hi Dave.
Dave Howe: Hi, how are you?
Keita Browne: Good. I just had a question, how does the Syfy Channel scout new talent in terms of writers or programming?
Dave Howe: I think we, you know, like most networks, you know, (Mark Stern) and his development team in LA are always looking at who’s out there. You know, we’re always learning from other people’s projects. There’s been an explosion of competitive scripted shows in particular across cable.
They’re taking pictures all the time, they have, you know, meetings with the agents in LA all the time. You know, it’s always in our interest to be at the forefront of discovering new talent and that’s part of (Mark) and his team’s remit in terms of finding, you know, the next huge writer, the next huge show runner, the next big visionary.
Keita Browne: Okay great. Just one more quick question. How do you go about surveying or polling – using a polling system to use to acquire data from the viewers to see what they like and what they don’t like?
Dave Howe: We do a whole host of things from a research perspective. There is an NBC Universal panel which I think is around 10,000 people we regularly tap and ask, you know, ad hoc questions that’s very helpful for us to get kind of a quick read on something – kind of a quick and dirty kind of take on something that we’ve done scheduling wise or programming wise.
But more, you know, in a more sophisticated way around that pilot development, you know, we use a combination of, you know, focus group testing, of (style) testing. All of the systems and processes that, you know, are tried and tested.
We use quite a, you know, we have regular tracking surveys that look at perceptions of the brand, of the network, of the programming. We have a range of tools at our disposal that we apply to some of our decision making. It’s never a substitute for, you know, the expertise and the experience of the Syfy team but it’s always a useful indicator and a useful kind of additional tool we use.
Keita Browne: Okay thanks a lot Dave.
Dave Howe: Thank you.
Coordinator: Kenn Gold with Media Blvd.
Kenn Gold: Hi Dave. Thanks a lot, appreciate your time again here.
Dave Howe: Very welcome, nice to talk to you.
Kenn Gold: I had a question about – actually two projects that had been previously announced but I hadn’t heard anything about for a while. And the first was Alien Nation and whether or not that was still in the works and going to come to the network.
And then as a second part of the question was a while back – I guess it’s a couple years ago – the deal with Virgin Comics was announced and the Stranded TV series. And I know they had their mergers and whatever with Liquid Comics. I was wondering if anything survived from that and if we might see any efforts into comics or into adapting TV series that you guys work on comics with the creators?
Dave Howe: They’re both very valid questions and both projects still exist. They’re both still in development. I think this – speaks to which, you know, which is always the thing that strikes – which always surprises people is how long it takes to develop shows.
Kenn Gold: Right.
Dave Howe: You know, Alien Nation is very much still in development. You know, I get an update on where we are every week. You know, usually it’s kind of back and forth in terms of the writers, the outlines, you know, the various kind of scripted durations.
And the same with Stranded, these are both active viable projects. I’m not expecting them on our air in 2010 or even 2011 necessarily. I think they all join the mix of green light material that we read and we figure out as we move ahead. But they’re both, you know, interesting and exciting projects.
As for Liquid Comics, Virgin Comics as it was, which, you know, gave birth to Stranded, I’m still in active conversation with Sharad Devarajan who’s the CEO of Liquid Comics. We don’t have another joint venture deal with them but, you know, we’re both very excited to do one again in the future.
It was a really interesting exercise for us. You know, we’ve go a number of projects out of it. And this is a very kind of a smart, creative, strategic company that we want to work with again in the future. I think now we’re out of 2009 and moving into 2010 and, you know, budgetarily things are going to pick up and, you know, we can afford to invest in a few more interesting partnerships and projects. I think Liquid Comics is possibly one that will come back.
Kenn Gold: Okay great. And another question I had for you with the network and Dr. Who, is there a future for the two or – I noticed that Dr. Who has been announced on BBC America at least for the in between episodes here but is the series going to air on Syfy again eventually or where is the plan there?
Dave Howe: I think that’s a great question. I mean we love Dr. Who, we love (unintelligible) I think it’s been very difficult for us to compete with the host network, the BBC. I think it’s in the – and, you know, I don’t blame them but it’s clearly in the BBC’s interest – BBC America’s interest to hang onto its flagship shows and use it as a, you know, springboard for their own growth.
And I think that’s what we saw with Dr. Who. You know, we aired the first few seasons. I think as they’ve seen the success of it on our air and they’ve been able to step up in terms of what they’re prepared to pay for it it’s been difficult for us to compete with that. I mean Dr. Who has done well for us.
It isn’t, you know, a racing hit anywhere near as high as our traditional original series but it’s a kind of, you know, a fun piece of our schedule that we would love to hang onto but if I’m honest I don’t think we will going forward. I think you’ll still see second windows of Dr. Who but I think BBC America recognizes it’s a driver for them and in the short to medium term it’ll stay at the BBC America as will Torchwood.
Kenn Gold: Okay thank you. And just one final question here can you give us the return dates or at least approximate return dates for Eureka and Warehouse 13?
Dave Howe: I don’t actually have the accurate dates. We tend not to set them as we get closer. But I can tell you that almost certainly they’ll both be back in July. Which particular week or which particular day in July I don’t know at this point but almost certainly July. But they’ll definitely be back in the summer.
You know, the tap dance that goes on most networks between the end of the year and the beginning of the summer is – it’s the usual budgeting stuff. And, you know, the week you air a network has material in perhaps on your annual budget and, you know, you tend to do that tap dance in the first couple months of the year and things settle down and then you can actually, you know, announce the real date.
Kenn Gold: Okay great. Thank you very much.
Dave Howe: Thank you.
Coordinator: Michelle Alexandria with Eclipse Magazine.
Michelle Alexandria: Hey Dave, it’s Michelle calling.
Dave Howe: Hello, how are you?
Michelle Alexandria: I’m doing great, how you doing? I have a couple of quick questions for you. The first question is a few years ago we talked a bit about the video game industry and Syfy’s desire to break into that. What ever happened with that?
Dave Howe: Well we’re still actively involved in video gaming. It’s still a primary driver of our business development team. You know, we have a new head of Syfy ventures, (Alan Siefert) who joined us in May from CNBC who’s absolutely at the forefront of spearheading new joint ventures and partnerships with companies going forward.
But our flagships partnership with Trion Worldwide is moving ahead at a pace. We announced I think over a year ago now a joint venture with Trion to co-develop and co-launch a subscription MMOG game and a weekly scripted series. And, you know, we’re actively developing that. We have a joint development team from (Mark Stern)’s area and the Trion team.
You know, we’re at that kind of pilot stage on the series. We have a working title for the series, it’s called One Earth. And you’re going to be hearing more over the coming weeks and months about that joint venture. Trion launches the first channel of its new gaming platform in the summer I believe it is. And they’re first game is going to be called Heroes.
Excuse me – Heroes of Telara. Yes please. Heroes of Telara which if any of you were at E3 last year you will see in the press it was – Heroes of Telara was called the potential successor to World of Warcraft which is, you know, the world’s biggest MMOG – the world’s biggest and most commercially successful MMOG.
But the intention of our joint venture with Trion is to try to achieve that – the One Earth which creates a unique 24-hour immersive game and accompanying TV series that enables you to kind of see the characters and the situation, the environment in the game in a TV series. So we’re very, very involved in video gaming.
Michelle Alexandria: What do you think the Syfy brand would add to it?
Dave Howe: We obviously bring a colossal viewer base through our network. We bring an ability to, you know, market a video game. But more so than that we bring a storytelling ability that I think is perfect for the video gaming industry at this point in time when they start to evolve through technology into a much more sophisticated storytelling machine as opposed to, you know, a more kind of 2D, you know, shooting game kind of experience.
And, you know, a lot of the gaming people that we talk to tell us that the time is right to transfer some of those TV skills around character and drama and emotion and, you know, storytelling into a video game and vice versa.
And I think we’re at the forefront of something which I think does position us slightly differently than most other networks and brands is, you know, we want to co-develop and co-launch projects.
We’re not in the business of retrofitting a TV game into a TV series or TV series into a TV game we want to co-develop the two so that they’re designed from the get-go to function as a video game or as a TV series or as a movie or the animated short or whatever it is. And I think that’s, you know, that’s going to be a unique strategy for most entertainment companies.
Michelle Alexandria: And then my last question – and it’s going to be a hostile question but my last question is a lot of people complain about Syfy’s penchant for re-imagining everything under the sun. How do you respond to critics?
Dave Howe: We don’t re-imagine that many things. I think we’ve the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Battlestar Galactica.
Michelle Alexandria: And Robin Hood recently.
Dave Howe: Sorry?
Michelle Alexandria: You did Robin Hood recently.
Dave Howe: I mean I think the – I think every network does this. I think we do it for valid reasons. I think, you know, those people who are jaded by it are probably those people that of my age and remember the original version.
I think the thing that drives us in some of this is we recognize there’s a whole new generation of consumers out there that have never heard of a lot of these projects, didn’t see the original, are very open to the concept and an execution that’s much more relevant and young and contemporary than the previous iteration. And I think it’s, you know, it’s a legitimate thing to attempt.
You know, we apply – you know, we apply stringent criteria to these things. Unless it’s a fresh take we don’t bother. I mean if you look at Tin Man which was our version of the Wizard of Oz, you know, it’s fundamentally different to the original movie and that makes it a complementary experience as opposed to trying to replicate or outdo the original.
And the same, you know, with Alice in Wonderland, it’s very much a let’s start again and figure out a whole new storyline for Alice in Wonderland. You know, we do it where it makes sense. And if it looks like a retread we’re really not that interested.
But, you know, if you look at 90%, 95%, 98% of our content, you know, it is driven by unique originals that are not retreads, you know, it’s driven by Warehouse 13 and Eureka and, you know, Caprica and Ghost Hunters and all of those shows that have been successful for us that are, you know, unique and exclusively ours.
Michelle Alexandria: Okay thank you.
Coordinator: Joe Hummel with popculturemadness.com.
Joe Hummel: Hi Dave, thanks for talking to us today.
Dave Howe: You’re welcome.
Joe Hummel: I guess the rebranding so far has been really working well. I mean, you are literally month to month doing better and better with the ratings. But I’m sure it was like a deep debate within the office, you know, changing from the classic (spin) of Sifi to what you have.
And I’m sure there were pluses and minuses. Are there any minuses that you look back on and say well it was worth giving that up? Is there anything that you feel you gave up with the old spelling?
Dave Howe: No actually. There are regrets is the answer to that which, you know, sounds like a pass-on but, you know, this was probably the most difficult and risky decision that any network undertakes.
You know, this was not entered into lightly, you know, this was two years in the making and quite frankly, you know, the eight years I’ve been at Syfy. And actually if you talk to (Tom Battaglia) who is one of our longest serving team members who’s been at Syfy for the full 17 years, you know, this has been an annual debate, do we change the name of the network.
I happen to have been very (anterior) as the head of marketing and then the general manager but I think it reached the point where we couldn’t not change the name, you know, for all the reasons that we extolled at the time and continue to extol.
You know, we had no choice in the multiplatform, nonlinear, international global world, you know, the streaming downloading world; we had to have a unique brand identity identifier name, call it what you like, that differentiated us from everybody else.
Do I think we lost anything by losing it Sifi? No because I think we were – I think we were smart and strategic about trying to ensure that we kept the best of what we had and we used it as a bridge to something that we didn’t have.
So it’s still recognizably, you know, about the genre. We’re still absolutely about the genre. You know, there’s just something that creates a unique spelling and a unique identifier around that genre. So that’s hopefully what we’ve achieved.
And you’re right, you know, we’ve seen the best six month’s ratings in the 17 year history of the network.
Joe Hummel: Well it is incredible. I think another big part is the content, you’ve done a great job with those sci-fi adventure shows, you’re movies and even your reality shows like Ghost Hunters is one of the few shows I say I got to watch that.
Dave Howe: Thank you. You’re right, I mean, I think the, you know, when we get it right and, you know, we don’t always get it right, you know, there are going to be some shows that you look at – that I look at and the team looks at and thinks, you know, we need to learn from this and move on.
But when we get it right it speaks to the incredible popular appeal of this genre and of this brand. It speaks to what we see in the Hollywood box office which is the ability to punch far above, you know, other networks, other brands, other genres to create something which is literally for everyone.
And that’s very exciting for us to be able to do that in the environment that we now I think have more permission. I think, you know, more people – advertisers, you know, we’ve seen new advertisers over the last six months that have never advertised with us before because they recognize that, you know, we’re no longer quite perceived as the kind of ghetto if you like that maybe people saw us as in the past.
And I think that’s exciting as we move forward with, you know, pioneering new shows and new concepts.
Joe Hummel: Okay well thank you very much.
Dave Howe: Thank you.
Coordinator: Meredith Woerner with io9.com.
Meredith Woerner: Hi Dave.
Dave Howe: Meredith, how you doing?
Meredith Woerner: I’m doing well. Thanks so much for having us here this morning.
Dave Howe: You’re welcome.
Meredith Woerner: Two questions for you. With the success of Warehouse 13, that new animated short, Eureka and Sanctuary and Ghost Hunters will 2010 have any more new hard sci-fi besides Caprica and SGU?
Dave Howe: You mean space operas?
Meredith Woerner: Yeah – yes, space operas or just, you know, things that are – I mean, SGU and Caprica are much more dramatic and violent and focused more on like hard stories as opposed to the light and playful fare that’s very successful and fun like Warehouse 13 and Eureka.
Dave Howe: I think other than what we’ve already talked about on the scripted side I don’t think you’re going to see anything in 2010 though we haven’t really talked about other than Being Human actually which, you know, which hopefully rolls up here in 2010 along side Haven.
But I think, you know, your definition of hard sci-fi is an interesting one that, you know, we debate endlessly, you know, we are still about science fiction fantasy. And I think, you know, when we talk about a range of shows it isn’t a range, you know, from hard to soft.
You know, we talk about a range of shows that are going to appeal to a wide audience constituents. You know, there’s quite a lot of hard, you know, fantasy, paranormal if you’d like in a show like Ghost Hunters and, you know, there’s always going to be elements – in fact there must be elements of speculative, you know, twisted reality storytelling in everything that we do.
But I think, you know, the more traditional space-based science-based programming I think that will always be – there will always be a place for it on our network; we will always ensure that we are serving that audience as well, but maybe doing it in a way that also at the same time appeals to a, you know, a broader constituent.
Meredith Woerner: Fair enough. And you mentioned space opera, last time we spoke you mentioned that your creative – this was like six months ago for the rebranding – you mentioned that your creative team was looking for foreign new space opera. And you wanted to find a Syfy Firefly, I believe you said, and like take part of a genre and reinvent it in a way just for you guys.
Where you with that right now? Have you found a script yet? Have you found a creative team that you’re invested in?
Dave Howe: No we haven’t. I mean we have a short list of projects that are in early development. We haven’t made any decisions around any of those. But we’re still actively pursuing it and if you know of anything feel free to let us know.
Meredith Woerner: Would you mind sharing maybe any of the ideas that you have – one maybe – possibly?
Dave Howe: I can’t do that because I think some of the deals haven’t yet closed. And until we close these deals it’s obviously problematic for us to announce something. But we do have – and I can – off the top of my head – and there are three titles that we haven’t yet announced that at some point in 2010 we’ll announce at least one or two of them.
Meredith Woerner: Well I had to take a shot at it. And thank you so much.
Dave Howe: You did. That was a great shot – well done.
Meredith Woerner: Thanks so much.
Dave Howe: Thank you.
Meredith Woerner: I always love to talk to you.
Dave Howe: Yeah.
Coordinator: Maj Canton with TV Tango.
Maj Canton: Hi Dave, how are you today?
Dave Howe: Thanks, how you doing?
Maj Canton: So my question the Saturday night TV movies have done very, very well for you guys, Malibu Shark Attack and Ice Twisters and I have – my site has a huge audience for these films. Can you tell me some of the new titles that may be coming up?
I know some of them are acquisitions, some are original, (Tom Battaglia) works very hard in producing these movies for you and you guys don’t publicize them that much but I try to do it for you. So could you tell me something that’s coming up in that – for the Saturday night movie franchise?
Dave Howe: Funny enough I have a list in front of me actually which I wasn’t expecting that question. But we love these movies too. And we have a lot of fun with these movies as you can imagine. And I know I may have said it on these calls before but I’ll say it again, a lot of these movies start with the title.
And somebody in one of these big crazy brainstorming meetings will throw out a (monster arc) and it’ll become a movie or a (Mansquito) or a Sharktopus which I think may well be one of the names, I’m not sure whether we’ve announced that.
But (Sally) is looking at me horrified but I’m going to announce several others here.
Maj Canton: What was it? I didn’t hear the title.
Dave Howe: Sharktopus. S-H-A-R-K-T-O-P-U-S. That’s my current favorite.
Maj Canton: Sharktopus, okay got it.
Dave Howe: In development – let’s see what else is on this list. (Tom) will kill me if the knows I’m just reading from his list.
Maj Canton: Hello?
Dave Howe: No I’m…
Dave Howe: I’m just flicking through the list. I think that’s the most fun one. Alien Gateway is another one that I think is going to appear in 2010. Hercules and Hydra.
Maj Canton: What is it?
Dave Howe: Hercules and Hydra. (Tom) will kill me but…
Maj Canton: I love these titles, Dave, they’re great.
Dave Howe: But these, you know, these are great movies for us. I mean, I think, you know, a lot of people kick us and tell us that it’s kind of B movie slop. But I think if you enter into the spirit of them and see them for what they are which is a kind of a Saturday night kick your feet up, you know, sit back, do not necessarily engage every area of your brain you can have a fun time.
They do do great ratings for us. Interestingly I think, you know, going forward they’re going to be increasingly challenging in the DVR world. I think movies in particular tend not to be, you know, appointment to view DVR stuff and people tend to look at ghetto movie when there’s, you know, nothing on their DVR etcetera.
I think it’s something that we – and (Tom) and I talk about this all the time as does (Michael Engle) and (Blake Howie), we have to figure out a way to market them better – to your point to really kind of get, you know, five or six a year to, you know, to be more prominent and create more of a sense of adventure around some of them. And I think that’s something you may well see next year.
We’re also taking a look at the positioning of the movies, this notion of the most dangerous night of television. And I think we’re going got refresh that in 2010. So there’s a lot going on on the movie front.
Maj Canton: Thank you very much.
Dave Howe: Thank you.
Coordinator: Michael Hinman with Airlock Alpha.
Michael Hinman: Thanks – sorry I didn’t know I was coming back so quickly. I had a quick question about the Battlestar Galactica franchise. I know that the most recent DVD movies coming out. And talking to some people like Brad Wright for instance he’s been involved with MGM with the whole Stargate DVDs and such.
You know, he had mentioned that the DVD market is very challenging right now with the economy and such. And is that something that might hurt potential future DVDs whether it be Battlestar Galactica or other products from Syfy?
Dave Howe: I think he’s right. I mean I think this year in particular, I mean, you know, we’ve seen it at Universal Pictures. It has been an incredibly challenging time for the home video group. I think some of those are products of the economy, clearly people aren’t buying DVDs in the volume that they were.
It’s also I think a, you know, part of the whole digital evolution and the fact that you, you know, you don’t need to buy a DVD, you can stream and download and the whole iTunes effect.
I think we’re going through a period of transition in terms of the DVD business. And I’m pretty confident that it will bounce back. I think as everyone gets their head around the new business models of, you know, Netflix and Hulu and iTunes and everything else I think the home video team and the movie team will figure out how to ensure that that increasingly critical, you know, backend and, you know, revenue driver is secure going forward.
What it’s going to look like in the next two or three years I don’t know. But, you know, we’ve been – we think considerable success for Battlestar on DVD, it’s traditionally been in the top 10 around the globe. You know, we’re hoping that Caprica does equally well going forward.
But I don’t think you can ever kind of count your chickens with these things because I think, you know, people – their media consumption habits are changing along with the technology and the distribution.
Michael Hinman: And just one quick question too about Saturday movies because I didn’t bring it up somebody else did. You know, has there ever been a thought about maybe bringing back Mystery Science Theater 3000 and just marrying the two together? That’s just a joke, I’m just kidding. But I think…
Dave Howe: I think I brought Mystery Science Theater up. I mean it’s been a while actually since anybody – I used to get it all the time, you know, MST3K because quite frankly that was the only thing people ever associated with the network. And they’re, you know, those people that don’t watch still think we’ve got MST3K on our – clearly we haven’t the eight years I’ve been here.
We don’t have any plans to bring it back. You know, we’ve talked about it in the past but not for four or five years. I think the thing about MST3K is – and I’ll ask you the same question as I say to everybody else is did you actually watch more than about, you know, 15 or 20 minutes? It’s one of those kind of one-note amusing things which I’m not sure is sustainable for any length of time or any period of time.
So I don’t think it’s anything that we would necessary do again as an ongoing thing but, you know, we may do it as an event or as a, you know, one off special because I do think there’s some nostalgia around it. And it was very funny.
Michael Hinman: Excellent. Well thanks Mr. Howe again.
Dave Howe: Thank you.
Coordinator: Once again if you’d like to ask question please press star then 1. Michelle Alexandria is up next with Eclipse Magazine.
Michelle Alexandria: Hi it’s me again. Just had a quick question regarding the Lost Room and it’s one of my favorite shows that a few years ago. And the way it ended it seemed like there was talk about a TV spinoff, whatever happened to that?
Dave Howe: I missed the title actually – what was the show?
Michelle Alexandria: It’s the Lost Room.
Dave Howe: The Lost Room. Yeah, we did have it in – that’s a very good question actually because I haven’t heard anything about the Lost Room for a while. I know we tried to develop it as a series but I think we struggled to close the deal on it.
Let me just – I’m just flicking through the development report now. Yeah, I don’t think it’s in development. No it’s not. I think it was a concept. It’s interesting actually. It was a concept that we really loved. And if I’m honest I think we’ve done it better in Warehouse 13. If you look at…
Michelle Alexandria: Right.
Dave Howe: …the concept of Warehouse 13 which is objects with special powers I think Warehouse 13 does a, you know, does a better version of the Lost Room from a series perspective.
I think the challenge that we had with Lost Room is it was very difficult as a concept even though we loved it to kind of market it in one sentence or less because it was somewhat, you know, complicated to just explain to everybody there was this kind of, you know, missing room and a missing key etcetera, etcetera.
And the thing about the objects was that their arbitrary powers were also problematic. The fact that, you know, you picked up an alarm clock and you had no idea what it would actually do. I think the success of Warehouse 13 is we’ve tried to give all of the objects a real kind of mythology and a history that actually stacks up that makes some sense either historically or scientifically, etcetera.
And I think that’s why Warehouse 13 works. And I think that’s probably why the Lost Room didn’t work for us. It was one of our lowest rated miniseries ever. And I think that’s pretty much – I think answers your question.
Michelle Alexandria: Yes it does. And then my last question is do you have any – are there any special quote/unquote stun episodes coming up for like Ghost Hunters and Warehouse 13 etcetera?
Dave Howe: Yes there’s – Sallie’s looking at me horrified. I’m not going to blab this out but I have to say we do have an amazing announcement around Ghost Hunters – a Ghost Hunters special event next year which blew us all away when we found out. This is an amazing – it’s going to be an amazing event.
And then we do have a whole host of initiatives, stunt casting initiatives that (Mark Stern) and his team have been doing with Warehouse and Eureka and all of our shows. You know, we actively try and cross fertilize and cross promote shows but they have a few ideas in terms of talking storylines around shows as well as characters which are very exciting.
So I think if you watch this space you’re going to see some announcements next year around all that.
Michelle Alexandria: Okay great. Thanks.
Coordinator: At this time I show no questions on the audio.
Dave Howe: Thank you all very much and, you know, have a great holidays, here’s to a great 2010 and thank you all again for your amazing support and coverage overt the last 12 months or so. And look forward to talking to you again in the future.
Coordinator: This concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for attending.