Syfy's 'Sharknado' Gets Accelerated International Rollout


The premieres in Australia and the U.K. have been moved up amid social media buzz, with Asia following soon.

LONDON -- The rollout of Syfy original movie Sharknado in international territories has been fast-tracked amid the social media buzz surrounding the TV film's U.S. premiere.

In Australia, NBCUniversal international TV channel arm Universal Networks International moved up the air date of the original to Friday night local time, with the U.K. set to follow on Aug. 7 instead of the originally planned September airing.

"Because it has become such a phenomenon, we have carried forward some of the start dates," Steve Patscheck, executive vp, global programming, Universal Networks International told THR. "This one caught on in the Twittersphere, so we wanted to make sure it's [getting an international rollout] closer to the U.S. premiere."

He added: "We contacted all the international channels, and the two main English-speaking channels were able to ramp up rather quickly."

In Australia, the company actually doesn't have a Syfy channel, but the Universal Channel general entertainment network airs the Syfy originals there.

Meanwhile, the Syfy channels in Asia have also just moved up the debut of Sharknado from fall to Aug. 11. In the region, Syfy channels are available in 11 mostly South East Asian countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong.

"In other territories like Germany, Spain and France, there is the creation of a foreign-language track involved," Patscheck explained. "So those dates will be announced shortly." Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America also fall into this category.

One benefit of all the buzz surrounding the film is that pay TV operators abroad have taken note, the executive said. "We have received comments from [pay TV] affiliates, which shows that [an original like this] reminds them we have exclusive, first-run content," he said.

Produced by The Asylum, Sharknado's U.S. premiere on July 11 created a social media frenzy -- making it the most social program on all of U.S. TV on premiere day with more than 604,000 tweets -- despite relatively modest ratings. It also became Syfy’s most social telecast ever.

The TV movie stars Beverly Hills, 90210 alum Ian Ziering and American Pie's Tara Reid. Their characters battle flying sharks in Los Angeles.

Patscheck said Sharknado's global rollout may been accelerated, but the film was always scheduled to go around the glove.

"We greenlight approximately 20 Syfy original movies every year for the international channels," he explained

"They are co-productions, so we are granted some editorial input around cast on occasion, title and gore or blood to accommodate us and make sure we can play these across our schedules. We buy these as a group, so all Syfy channels will have access to the 20 movies every year."

Sharknado was part of this year's slate, because Patscheck and his team knew it would hit a sweet spot abroad.

"Sharknado is a nice combination of what has worked well for us in the past," Patscheck told THR. "The shark-based originals like Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus have done really well. So have the disaster films. In the case of a shark-based original or disaster movie, we already know they are going to work well in almost every territory where we have a Syfy channel."
So, Sharknado was a no-brainer for the international Syfy channels. "This is a combo movie. This is unique," Patscheck said. "We're looking for this to break away from the pack."

Why do these kind of films play so well in many countries? "Syfy viewers aren't that different -- whether it is Australia, Mexico or the U.S.," said Patscheck. "And this is pure escapist fare, and everybody wants to escape for two hours, regardless of where you grew up and your cultural background. It cuts across borders very easily."

Some of the cast also made Sharknado an easier sell for international networks. "Ian Ziering is well known because of his 90210 days," said Patscheck. "That show played everywhere in the world. That does help in getting it on a viewer's radar screen abroad."

With a Sharknado sequel already in the works, Patscheck's team is in talks about green lighting it for another international rollout. Said the executive: "The conversation has already started."

Twitter: @georgszalai