Sci Fi Looks to Expand Horizons

Jul 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

In an attempt to create a global brand of the future, Sci Fi is forming Sci Fi Ventures, a vehicle for getting into new businesses beyond its cable channel.
David Howe, president of Sci Fi, is looking to bring in a head of Sci Fi Ventures who will be in charge of pushing into gaming, tech gadgets, theatrical films and the kids market.
Parent company NBC Universal views Sci Fi as the type of brand that can move beyond TV and span the globe.
“The Sci Fi brand’s deep connection with its consumers—comprised chiefly of trend-setting innovators—proves that Sci Fi has the power and the imagination to reach beyond the television screen to become a total global lifestyle brand,” Mr. Howe said.
Getting into the kids market is thus far just on the drawing board. It’s attractive to Sci Fi because childhood and adolescence is when most fans begin their passion for the genre, and there is plenty of sci-fi and fantasy programming appropriate for younger viewers.
On the other hand, the kids marketplace is difficult because it’s already dominated by the three-headed dragon of Disney, Viacom (Nickelodeon) and Time Warner (Cartoon Network). Also, the outlook for spending by toymakers, food companies and other kids marketers has been bleak for the past few seasons.
Sci Fi also is in preliminary talks with Universal Studios about the theatrical film business.
Mr. Howe already has begun taking Sci Fi where the network hasn’t gone before. It’s been expanding globally into new markets and into cyberspace, where in addition to the channel’s SciFi.com it has DVice, a site about technology, and Fidget, a game site.
It is developing another site that offers entertainment news and reviews. These days, many of the most popular films, such as “Iron Man” and “Hell Boy,” have science fiction or fantasy at their core.
Naturally, games will be a big deal for Sci Fi.
Last week it announced the formation of a partnership with Trion Worldwide to co-develop and launch a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG), like Everquest or World of Warcraft, that could be linked to programming on the network or its Web site. NBC Universal also acquired a stake in BigPoint, another game company. BigPoint games will be hosted on SciFi.com
Sci Fi Ventures also is working with licensing agency BrandSense to make products carrying the Sci Fi brand or endorsement, aimed at appealing to the channel’s early-adopter, tech-savvy fans.
The network also is involved in publishing through a joint venture with Virgin Comics that develops franchises to appear in both print and video incarnations. Earlier this year the network greenlit a project based on the joint venture’s title “The Stranded.”
With all of these businesses, the trick will be to decide when it’s best to build an in-house staff and when to rely on joint-venture or licensing arrangements with other companies, Mr. Howe said.


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