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Syfy Makes Huge Push Toward Reality Programming

New hires in the executive rank hints at where cable channel’s focus is heading

It’s a fact: Reality programs are minimal risk with the chance of huge rewards. And with Syfy finding a lot of success in series like “Ghost Hunters,” “Destination Truth” and “Face-Off,” it’s no wonder they want to continue pushing reality into 2012.

So it’s likely little surprise that Syfy is beefing up its executive ranks within unscripted programming, hiring five people who have worked in everything from “Sister Wives” and “Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders” to “Hoarding: Buried Alive” and “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

Now working for Syfy, according to The Hollywood Reporter, are Robyn Lattaker-Johnson, Wayne Sampson and Colin Whelan — all vice presidents of alternative programming. Joining them are Tori Socha and Andrew Whitney, who will work as directors in reality programming for the channel.

Syfy isn’t trying to fill offices. Instead, it seems to be moving its focus even more to unscripted shows.

“On the heels of Syfy’s most-watched year in history, we will be launching a record number of unscripted series in 2012,” senior vice president Tim Krubsack told THR, in a statement. “With their diverse experiences, creative sensibilities and stellar accomplishments, these five very gifted executives will play a key role in shaping that programming expansion and the continuing growth of the Syfy brand.”

An expansion of reality programming does not necessarily have to come at the sacrifice of scripted shows like “Sanctuary” and “Warehouse 13.” Instead, Syfy is a 24-hour cable channel with plenty of timeslots to fill — especially since much of its programming is 20 episodes or less per season.

However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be less scripted programming in the future. The problem with scripted programming is it requires a huge investment on the part of Syfy or a production company it picks series up from. Acquiring shows, like Canada’s “Lost Girls” and Great Britain’s “Merlin,” at licensed costs, helps mitigate that risk a little bit. But high-money failures like “Caprica” and “Stargate: Universe” can really tax the bottom line for a cable channel where it seems profit margins are forever thin.

So who are the new executives?

Lattaker-Johnson has a thin resume, which includes shows such as “The Ultimate Hustler” in 2005 and “Hell Date” in 2007. She also was a senior vice president of original programming at BET. Sampson worked for Dick Clark Productions, and also has credits that include an episode of “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss.” Whelan is a producer whose work includes “House Hunters,” “L.A. Ink,” and two episodes of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

Socha comes from TLC with Whelan, and worked on shows like “Sister Wives” and “Extreme Couponing.” Andrew Whitney was with CMT, and has worked on shows like “CMT’s Next Superstar,” “Step It Up and Dance,” and “Hollyhood.”

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