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Grappling With ‘SmackDown’ Shift

9/27/2010 12:57 AM Eastern

Syfy will look to pin
down young male viewers with
the Oct. 1 launch of World Wrestling
Entertainment’s SmackDown series franchise.

The two-hour show is migrating
from broadcast network
MyNetworkTV, and Syfy said it’s
confident SmackDown viewers
will follow the show to cable.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity
for us,” Syfy president
Dave Howe said. “It’s the
Holy Grail of wrestling franchises
after [Monday Night] Raw — I
think it gives us an amazing opportunity
to create a destination
for Syfy on Friday nights.”

Michelle Wilson, executive vice
president of marketing for WWE,
expects a smooth transition to
the 96 million subscriber Syfy
from broadcaster MyNetworkTV,
where the series averaged 3.3 million
viewers from August 2009 to
August 2010.

The weekly taped series will
debut with a live telecast sponsored
by energy drink Five-
Hour Energy.

“This move gives us virtually
the same household penetration
[as MyNetworkTV], so we’re not
really worried about the transition,”
Wilson said. “[With] our
loyal audience, along with Syfy’s
loyal audience and its household
penetration, we’re confident that
this will be a great move for us.”

The network and programmer
plan a big marketing and promotional
campaign with both television
and print ads touting the
move to Syfy.

The WWE will promote the
move throughout all of its media
properties, as well as during
its live events and an e-mail database
of 3 million addresses database,
Wilson said.

There’s a new channel locator
on WWE.com, where consumers
can enter their ZIP code to find
out which channel carries Syfy
on their local cable systems.

USA Network, Syfy’s sister
NBC Universal service, will actively
promote SmackDown on
its popular weekly WWE franchise,
Monday Night Raw.

“With Monday Night Raw
on USA Network Mondays and
SmackDown on Syfy Fridays, we
have a great opportunity across
NBCU’s cable assets to cross promote
our content,” Wilson said.
“We feel very strongly that it will
grow the audience not only for
SmackDown, but for Raw.”

Synergy is being found with
other Syfy original
shows. Wrestler
Cody Rhodes
guest starred on
the network’s
most-watched series,
Warehouse 13, and Wilson
said there are talks about more
WWE stars appearing in Syfy shows.

SmackDown will inherit the
8 p.m. to 10 p.m. timeslot on
Fridays, which Syfy had previously
dedicated to launching
and developing such scripted
fare as Battlestar Galactica,
Stargate: Universe
and freshman
series Haven.

Howe hopes to build a loyal
and consistent audience on
a night that doesn’t have high
HUT (households watching
television) levels. “We’ve actually
wanted to get off of Friday
with our scripted fare for several
years, and this is an opportunity
to do that,” he said.

Syfy still has 10 p.m. Friday
for other more typical Syfy
shows: new episodes of sophomore
series Sanctuary will run
in that time period beginning
Oct. 15.

September