|Syfy's promising new original series, Defiance, starts in April.|
Before the DVR era, Syfy used to be called “The Sci-fi Channel” and it was part of the basic cable package. If you had cable in the 1990s, you pretty much got Syfy, CNBC, MTv and a host of other popular stations. Syfy’s content was mostly reruns of science fiction, fantasy, and horror shows of years past, running the gambit from the brilliant like the Twilight Zone to the hopelessly cheesy Lost in Space. But for any true connoisseur of the genre, it was an enjoyable trip down nostalgia lane. Syfy slowly began to introduce original productions, and though their offerings contained a few stinkers (that Flash Gordon reboot), it also produced some brilliant genre shows that might never have been green-lighted on broadcast networks (i.e. Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Stargate SG1, Eureka, and Warehouse 13). The growing strength of Syfy’s and USA Network’s programming gave Comcast the confidence to charge for access to their channels as though they were collectively as good a value as premium stations like HBO and Showtime. The bundle usually included E! News, Syfy, USA Network, Bravo, and a few others. (Not included in this is CNBC.) NBCU is not the only company to do this. AMC Networks, which I recall once receiving as part of basic cable in the 90s, also started to charge for bundles.
I am temporarily getting Syfy again as part of a customer-relation offering for some problems I had with my Comcast service last year. Watching the new crop of shows, I have to say I like a lot of them. I had never watched Lost Girl before. Continuum looks interesting, and Defiance looks right up my alley. I’ve also been sticking with Warehouse 13 on Netflix when it becomes available (have to wait a year usually) and the new season looks promising. However, when my credits run out, I will not stick with the subscription.
|Lots of sexy "hot chicks" on Syfy shows--I still won't pay for it.|
If Comcast wants my viewership so that it can charge more money for ads, it has to have a better covenant with its viewers. By charging both ends of the spectrum--advertisers and viewers--Comcast and the other companies want to have their cake and eat it too—and this I feel is the reason viewership has dropped. Given a choice of keeping HBO; Showtime; or even AMC (which I do not subscribe to, but love their critical darlings Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Walking Dead enough to get through Netflix), the Syfy/NBCU bundle can’t compete. People are willing to invest only so much in couch-potatoship. If NBCU wants to see its viewership skyrocket, it should be begging its parent company to give away their ad-driven channels for free. The shows are good and people will come around.*Note: Since writing this piece I have moved to a new home and switched to Fios. Now I get SyFy, AMC, and many other stations that I did not get under my cable package. I want to say that aside from the bundling issue, I thought Comcast provided a good service. Their cable men were polite and friendly and arrived close to the appointment window. The quality of their signal was good and they were willing to credit you for service interruptions. My choice to switch to Fios was due to a package that included all my services and more channels at a lower price, not because Comcast was a bad company.
Ed Lazellari is a blogger and fiction writer. His novels Awakenings and The Lost Prince from Tor Books are available at Barnes & Nobles and Amazon.com.