Sci-Fi Channel eyes mainstream appeal

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Deborah Bonello

Universal is investing in a fresh, new identity for its Sci-Fi Channel which will reposition it as more of a general entertainment offering.

The channel will be more similar to the US version when it relaunches in April, Media Week can reveal.

“We’re following the science fiction genre as it moves more mainstream,” said Universal president Dan Marks, adding that content such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and movies such as The Matrix have helped push the genre into the popular arena.

As a result of the rebrand, there have been an unspecified number of redundancies and hirings at Sci-Fi’s UK offices, understood to have been mainly in the group’s press and marketing operations.

The new-look Sci-Fi Channel will retain its name and have new brand idents, and Universal is focused on bringing more pro- gramming into the channel that cannot be seen on any other digital TV stations, such as John Doe, Veritas and the Tremors series, already showing on the channel.

Marks stressed that the changes at Sci-Fi being introduced by Universal do not signal a lack of confidence.

Marks replaced Janet Goldsmith as head of Sci-Fi in August last year after she left the broadcaster following a five-year stint.

At the time, parent company Vivendi Universal was facing an uncertain future.

David Yorath, managing director of Guerillascope, said that the channel’s level of viewing has not fallen. “If the channel suffers, it’s because clients don’t generally request Sci-Fi to be on their plan.

They’re often more excited about Sky One or E4,” he said.

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