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‘Caprica’ Could Bring Sci-Fi To Mainstream

Syfy president Dave Howe felt the space backdrop hindered ‘Battlestar Galactica’

Since relaunching under its new name, Syfy has been blowing away audience records with freshman hits like “Warehouse 13” and “Stargate: Universe,” and continuing to bring fans back through shows like “Eureka” and “Sanctuary.”

But unfortunately, even the most talked-about shows like “Battlestar Galactica” have not been translating into the kind of viewers the network was hoping for … something that could change with the BSG prequel “Caprica” premieres in January, Syfy president Dave Howe said.

“‘Battlestar’ was a spectacular flagship show for us,” Howe told Forbes magazine. “The level of critical acclaim around that show was pretty unprecedented for any cable network. But ultimately, it didn’t bring in as many viewers as it had the potential to do because it was on a network called SciFi and it was set in space.”

Despite the fact that “Battlestar” was an “intense emotional character drama,” the outside world had a hard time seeing past some of what they felt kept the show off their radar, even though making it space-faring was just a background element, and not the primary basis for the show.

“The great thing we’re seeing around ‘Caprica,’ which is the prequel we’ll launch in January, is that it doesn’t have that space backdrop,” Howe said. “In all of our testing, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from new viewers — they’re actually seeing things that were in ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ but somehow having it set on a planet that looks like Earth gives more people permission to come in and sample it.”

Unfortunately, seeing so-called grounded series become successful has been the norm. The Stargate franchise, which did visit planets but was mostly set on modern-day Earth, is an example of that, as is “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13.” Even the CGI-dominated “Sanctuary” has also drew in a wider audience because of its aversion to space, which makes it harder for other shows such as “Universe” and “Battlestar.”

At the same time, making the slight adjustment in the network’s name to one with its roots in this very Web site, is helping provide a bit of a boost as well.

“We wanted to broaden our reach, bring in more new viewers, and take our audience more upscale and gender-balanced,” Howe said about instituting the Syfy name. “Without exception, every single one of these indicators has moved up substantially, and we’ve seen record-breaking ratings since the summer.”

Even women are tuning into Syfy, with that audience group getting up to a 30 percent boost on shows like “Warehouse 13” alone.

“The brand evolution and the name change gave people permission to sample us,” Howe said. “It spoke to the fact that we’re not as niche and narrow as people expect. Everything about the look and feel of the network is more accessible and friendly, and I think we’ve launched a bunch of new shows that do what we want to do, which is present content that is accessible, relatable, has a sense of humor, and is set in the here and now.”

To read the rest of the Forbes interview, and get some business insight on what Howe looks to do with Syfy, click here.

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