In Depth

Syfy Already Pitching 'Defiance,' Coordinated TV Series and Video Game -- It Won't Be Introduced for a Year, but Complicated Project Requires Bringing in Marketers Early

By Jeanine Poggi
Advertising Age

Syfy is already pitching advertisers on integrations into "Defiance," the coordinated TV series and multiplayer online game that it plans to introduce in April 2013.

The complicated nature of the project, in which plot points will appear on the TV show and in the game at about the same time, requires bringing in marketers earlier than usual, according to executives.

"We are in conversations with potential advertisers nine months in advance," said Linda Yaccarino, president-cable entertainment and digital advertising sales at NBC Universal, which owns Syfy. "We have never thrown back the curtain this early in a project."

"Defiance," a joint venture with video-game developer Trion Worlds, centers on aliens and humans living together on Earth 30 years from now. The two species struggle to build a society amid devastation after an epic war.

The show and the game will influence each other and evolve together, said Syfy President Dave Howe. If, for example, the game warns of an invasion, "then the show will reference that battle in the following episode," he said. "If a massive storm moves in on the show, it moves in on the game."

Brands can play a role that makes sense, as "Defiance" is set in the near future in San Francisco, Syfy and Trion said.

"The game could have a highway with rest-stop signs, and one of the signs could have a Burger King symbol," said Nicholas Beliaeff, senior VP-development for Trion Worlds. "When they get off the highway, they find a Burger King that survived the universal war."

Comcast, which bought 51% of NBC Universal in 2011, is also an investor in Trion.

Media typically get consumed in a lean-back fashion, as with TV, or a lean-forward stance, as in gaming and the web, said Mike Rosen, president-investment and activation at Starcom MediaVest Group. " 'Defiance' is a groundbreaking paradigm that links both media [types] and allows brands to be more immersive than they could be as part of TV or a video game alone."

The project potentially offers more of a true dual-screen experience than media companies have delivered so far, said Ellen Ferrari, managing director at Mindshare.

"Syfy is pushing past linear TV and showing there's a bigger environment for advertisers outside the one screen," Ms. Ferrari said. "This will push other networks to build programming for more than one screen. A video game might not be the answer for everyone, but it will open networks' eyes that there are other ways to incorporate and engage the consumer with that's happening on TV."