May, for the most part, signals the Upfronts, a series of presentations by the networks for ad buyers and the press for what they have lined up for the coming year. Cancellations and renewal news picks up around this time, as do announcements of new programming and new initiatives. Some channels also reveal rebranding strategies, which is what Syfy has done this week through a conference call on Wednesday that showed off a new-and-improved Syfy, one that is set to launch June 19th (ahead of its 25th anniversary in September).
Chris McCumber, the President of Entertainment Networks for NBCUniversal (which includes USA, Syfy, Chiller, and Cloo) showed us a number of video clips during the presentation that brings home Syfy’s new message moving forward: essentially, if you’re part of a fandom or have a passion about anything, you “belong” at Syfy. There’s a new focus on inclusion, but at the same time, the channel is leaning into its niche and genre programming. The focus will now be in four areas: science fiction (like The Expanse), fantasy (The Magicians), supernatural/paranormal (Channel Zero), and superheroes/comics (new series Krypton).
McCumber confirmed that Krypton has been order to series, alongside the comic book adaptation Happy! starring Chris Meloni, and the previously-announced Purge series. Also coming soon is Nightflyers (a George R. R. Martin novella), and adaptations of Brave New World, Hyperion, and Stranger in a Strange Land.
The other major announcement is that Syfy will be pushing “Syfy Wire,” a news-focused site that will likely crossover with a video news show. Wire will also absorb some of the current Syfy sub-sites like Fangirls, and will be pushing a bigger presence at cons (with Comic Con as “our Super Bowl”) and more with live coverage.
McCumber name-checked The Magicians, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones as part of the way Syfy wants to build a home for (in my own word) nerds. As such, Syfy and USA will be acquiring the rights to the Harry Potter franchise and Fantastic Beasts as well as Marvel’s recent movies to try and bring all of these fandom interests to one place.
When you add new programming though, you have to take things away, and McCumber was cagey on what that might mean (it sounds like some of their unscripted shows will go the way of the dodo, but it wasn’t clear). Responding to a question about how Syfy makes renewal decisions, McCumber did say that they are looking for shows to be “noisy,” and that all platforms (including social media) are taken into consideration to get a sense of that. (He mentioned Wynonna Earp in relation to this, as far as a show whose numbers might not be exceptionally high, but is still making a splash ).
As for Krypton, there isn’t a set schedule for it yet, but we should know more soon. The footage in the trailer all comes from the pilot, but it is in active production mode now. McCumber suggested that we might see it in the first quarter of 2018 (though there’s a lot that’s premiering before then, including their 31 Days of Halloween and more). He also confirmed that they are in conversations with Warner Bros about familiar DC characters appearing in Krypton, though we don’t yet have a sense of who that might be.