Syfy, Ahead of 25th Anniversary, Gets Brand Refresh

NBCU Cable entertainment networks president Chris McCumber talks with THR about what's ahead.
Courtesy of USA
McCumber

Ahead of its 25th anniversary in September, Syfy is getting a brand refresh.

Starting Monday, June 19, Syfy will unveil an all-new look and feel — including a new logo (seen below), typeface and look across its linear, digital, social and experimental platforms.

"I can think of no better occasion than Syfy's 25th anniversary to get back to our roots, double down on premium original programming, and put fans at the center of everything we do,” said Chris McCumber, president of entertainment networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “As the only television network dedicated to the genre 24/7, we’re building the ultimate universe for this passionate community to call home.”

Additionally, Syfy will expand its news division with Syfy Wire — formerly known as Blastr.com. The site will be infused with breaking genre news, analysis and original content, as well as feature regular on-air integrations.

"This is a wholesale change, top to bottom, of the way we express ourselves," said Alexandra Shapiro, exec vp marketing and digital, entertainment networks at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “Our new branding is designed for the digital age and tailored to the consumption patterns of our audience, allowing us to celebrate and engage with fans on every consumer touchpoint.”

To hear McCumber further explain it, the Syfy reboot will see the cable network focus on its own programming as well as other intellectual property that appeals to the geek crowd, like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Marvel. To that end, Syfy and USA recently acquired rights to J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and secured a number of Marvel movies including Iron Man, Captain America and more. Syfy will use buzzy movies like these to help bolster originals by airing them as lead-ins.

"I started in this job about a year ago and realized this year would be Syfy's 25th anniversary in September and thought it would be a great time for us to embrace the genre and get back to its roots," McCumber tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We took last year to take a hard look at Syfy and its challenges and opportunities — and if you look at genre, it's bigger than ever over the past five years, not just at the box office but in TV as well, and we found that astounding."

McCumber's team found that 165 million people watch at least one genre show per week, with 50 million superfans engaging about programming on social media. Syfy, he said, is getting about a third of those superfans. "We want to get back to the core and to that fanbase. If we can grow 70 percent beyond what we have now, that's a big change," he said.

While many broadcast, cable and streaming services typically look to draw eyeballs with broad-skewing programming, Syfy plans to do the opposite. "We are doubling down and embracing this core [fanboy] audience. With Syfy as a name, we want to own the genre," he said. "We have to create a home and universe for fans to come and celebrate the genre they love. That's why we're opening this up and building the network around those passionate fans. We are the only TV network whose only mission is to live and breathe science fiction 24/7."

McCumber plans to double down on originals — specifically pointing to an increased development pipeline beyond Brave New WorldHyperion and Stranger in a Strange Land. Syfy on Thursday also announced that it would be developing Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin's 1980 novella Nightflyers and greenlit two new shows based on IP: Superman prequel Krypton and Image Comics' Happy. The cabler also recently landed Jason Blum's The Purge TV series, which McCumber said would feature a real hand-off from the next Purge movie.

Going forward, McCumber pointed to four genre sub-categories that Syfy would be focusing on: space (like The Expanse); fantasy (a la The Magicians); paranormal/supernatural (anthology Channel Zero); and superheros/comics (Krypton, Happy). Beyond the scripted side, the executive hopes to eventually bring content from Syfy Wire to the linear network — like a topical daily talk show — and, in success, a Syfy Wire awards show as launching a new night of originals remains a distinct possibility.

"The competition in the scripted arena is fierce, and whatever we do — no matter what the price point is — it has to make noise," said McCumber. "We're looking for high-end quality with a noise factor. For scripted, I do subscribe to the idea of fewer, bigger and better."

For now, co-productions like Wynnona Earp will continue provided there's that "noise factor" to help the show cut through the cluttered landscape with more than 450 originals. As for ownership, McCumber stressed the ease of having a sibling studio in Universal Cable Productions and noted he would continue to buy from outside suppliers — "especially if you're in the IP business."  

Ahead of Syfy's 25th anniversary, expect some theme weeks and potential cast reunions to be part of the cabler's celebration of its roots. (The cast of Syfy's Battlestar Galactica will reunite in June at the ATX Television Festival, for example.) 

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