Sci Fi pacts with reality guru to gather more 'Hunters'

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Sci Fi Channel is expanding its "Ghost Hunters" franchise with a new multipart agreement with creator Craig Piligian that includes dozens of hours of reality programming.

The network has given the green light to six episodes of a college edition of the paranormal series, tentatively titled "Ghost Hunters: New Generation." Sci Fi also has ordered a sixth season of the "Hunters" flagship and a second season of the "International" spinoff.

In addition, Piligian has signed an agreement for an as-yet-undetermined series separate from the "Hunters" brand with an eye toward a 2010 premiere date.

"Craig is a star performer who's been a great partner," Sci Fi executive vp original programming Mark Stern said. "You want to be in business with people like him on a consistent basis."

"Hunters" has been one of the network's top ratings performers and has grown its audience each season. The most recent season averaged 2.8 million viewers per week.

The newest series seeks to capitalize on the reality show's popularity among college students.

"It's going to be more of a teaching format," Piligian said. "We're going to try to have a little more fun with the franchise."

The spinoff features franchise regulars Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango training students who will accompany them on paranormal investigations. Episodes also could include stops in thematic locations, like spring break hot spots.

"What's cool about 'Ghost Hunters' is it has tried to rely on empirical science," Stern said. "This is an opportunity to delve into that a little deeper and take the show into a more academic setting."

In addition to the "Hunters" franchise, the reality series "Scare Tactics" and "Estate of Panic" have performed well for the network, though a renewal verdict has not been made for "Chase," another reality show. The network has a half-dozen other reality projects in development and hopes to expand its unscripted lineup. (partialdiff)

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