I answered a few questions over on Forbes. Please Linkedin, SU and Digg the Article for me.
A couple of months back Trendrr — a new service that measures TV shows’ popularity via social media mentions — listed Stargate Universe as the most talked-about cable television show of the week. In December, the SyFy channel had announced its cancellation and a fanbase was building to save it — from chartrooms, fanpages, Twitter, Digg and they were arriving in the public square of Facebook.
Recently the “Save Stargate Universe” page on Facebook crossed the 50,000 mark, a remarkable effort to save a show. But what’s most striking in reading through their strategies and comments, is the group’s passion. It comes out in their rumor-milling, in the expressions of genuine loss, and every now and then in a little humor:
has anyone thought of maybe suing syfy for false advertising. Wrestling and cooking are not science fiction!”
It is pages like Save SGU that illustrate the shifting relationship between television executives and viewers. It’s not always pretty, but ultimately better for both parties. The question for television execs is how to turn that passion and energy into something positive for their shows and their brand in general. To make that happen, they have to understand how groups such as Save SGU come to be.
The man behind the SGU movement calls himself TheDudeDean and we chatted via email over the weekend about why Stargate Universe sparks such fervent defenders, Save SGU’s goals now that SyFy is out of the picture and why Facebook has been their chosen gathering place.
There are a lot shows being cancelled this season, what makes this show worth saving?
By canceling Stargate Universe, MGM, NBC, and SyFy have alienated the very people who make their companies millions of dollars. They no longer want the “geeks” who, without, science fiction would not exist.
It is more than just a television show. It is a way of life for those of us who love the franchise. Getting to know the characters, fighting with them to rise above adversary, watching how the myths of today are blended to create a plausible explanation of our past, allowing our imaginations to run rampant, and sharing with others the possibilities of the worlds around us is something that cannot be replaced by reality shows. It means that much to us.
By canceling this franchise, these companies have not only lost money, they have lost their reputation and their credibility. When once fans would RALLY together for the newest shows SyFy, NBC, and MGM were putting out, now we rally together to show our disappointment, our anger, and our determination to show them that this WILL NOT STAND.
This is not just for Stargate Universe. It is for Science Fiction in general. We are fighting for its survival. If we don’t stand up now, Syfy will be total crap like MTV in a few years, if not sooner. BTW Who watches those 12 hour marathons of Jersey Shore they do on Sundays? If you like Cooking shows, Reality TV and Wrestling, don’t do anything.
Tell me how you started to build a following for this movement.
I founded this page one month before the show was canceled. When I heard they were moving Caprica and Stargate Universe from Friday night and replacing them with “Smackdown,” I knew that Syfy was planning on canceling these shows. I just set up the http://www.facebook.com/SaveSGU page and got my 25 fans so I could get my URL to match my twitter handle. One month later the show was cancelled.
On Day 1 +1000 fans, Day 2 +1000 fans, Day 3 + 500 fans, and by the end of December we had 5000 fans. I really didn’t expect Syfy to cancel Stargate Universe mid-season.
From the Start, I had Miguel Lopez and Cynthia Yildirim, from the ranks of fans, I found my assistant administrators for the page. Fans spread the word on other website discussions after the news was released about the cancellation and people started coming en masse to Save Stargate Universe.
Word of mouth is a powerful weapon. Last month we added 31,000 to our numbers. I’ve created YouTube, Twittter, Amplify and Tumblr social media pages to gather people together and get the word out. What you see today is a result of that.
Added November 16, 2010 (this is the original group avatar.)
SyFy’s Craig Engler made a fairly compelling argument for canceling SGU. I’m wondering if that open letter a few weeks back slowed your momentum.
No, not at all. If anything I think it has galvanized it. To us, his argument was not in any way compelling. What he stated was a generic answer given for every show that is cancelled. He did go a step further and practically blamed the fans for the cancellation, something you do not do in the Science Fiction world. We were blamed solely for the ratings drop when everyone knows that the show changed times and days repeatedly without correct advertisement. The change in the time of year it was aired also greatly damaged its viewer base.
These shows have cult followings. And when someone tries to back their way out of a hole the way he did, it provides us with all the more reason to rally together to save the show.
It received such negative feedback that even (SGU executive producer) Joseph Mallozzi had to write a rebuttal. Neither he nor the fans believed what Craig was saying and still do not to this day. While it seems that he tried to assuage our anger with SyFy and with himself, repeating what we had already heard was probably not the best way to go about it. We look forward to hearing from him again.
Have you heard from anyone at SyFy? Same question for the show — anyone helping you on from show’s producers?
Yes, we have heard from a few people. Syfy’s Craig Engler recently reached out to me on Twitter. After a few Twitter messages back and forth, I had a nice 25 minute phone call late one afternoon. He called me at 4:36 PM and had a public relations supervisor (@SyfyPR) on the line with him.
After a few moments of chit chat, he basically read me the “Open Letter” he wrote. I reminded him that NBC (NBCUniversal is Syfy’s parent company) canceled Star Trek. I asked him if he thought they made the right decision on that one. Craig Engler then reminded me that Star Trek didn’t do well when it was brought back. I reminded him that, as they had Stargate Universe, they moved it to Friday Night, which at that time was regarded as the kiss of death for the show.
I also asked him if he saw Joseph Mallozzi’s post where he addressed the Open Letter to fans. I pointed out to Craig Engler that you can’t compare Summer time TV Numbers to Fall Numbers. The demographics and time of year drastically affect the ratings.
Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis were both Summer time shows, they did well there. It is my belief that Syfy deliberately scheduled the shows in the fall in order to cut them off.
We are still not sure as to the reason for the call, but we like to think that it is because our voices were getting too loud to ignore. A reputation is a hard thing to gain back when you betray the trust of the fans.
I’ve tried reaching out to David Blue and the cast, but only MingNa would follow us back on Twitter. Patrick Gilmore, Dr. Volker on the show, contacted one of my administrators, Suzy Phillips, by email. Also Brian Jacob Smith Tweeted about us:
“Big fan of SGU? Sad that it’s gone? Check out this site – I was amazed to see how organized/passionate they are. http://bit.ly/fnfphA”
We understand that going against these major networks can be disastrous for the actors and crew that are seeking work in the entertainment field. Several have stated that. But we know that they appreciate our efforts and keep up the hope that one day they will be able to speak out and help us.
Is the goal now to find the show another channel?
Yes. If any network (preferably not in the NBCU/Comcast Empire) would pick it up that would be great. We’ve also noticed that Netflix is getting into producing its own content. There are also several networks in the UK that SGU would be perfect for. We just want the show and the franchise to continue!
We have fans who are writing the third season on their own. Others want to donate money to pay for another season. The fans of Stargate Universe are serious about getting it back on the air and continuing the franchise. We are also working to generate interest in the Stargate movies that were shelved with the cancellation of SGU.
It’s interesting to see that a major part of your strategy is DVD sales. Have you been able to track how that’s going?
Yes, we got that idea from one of Joseph Mallozzi blog posts. He stated that one way to prove that Stargate Universe and the entire Stargate franchise, for that matter, was profitable, the fans needed to purchase DVD’s. It would show the popularity of the show as well and profit for the companies.
Both MGM and SyFy promote the sale of the DVD’s on their Facebook pages using Amazon like we do. Although we do not want to fund them, we understand that money plays a huge part in the entertainment industry and without it, the show has no hope of coming back. We consider it a part of our campaign.
We are able to track the purchases of DVD’s from our Amazon account if they are purchased through our store. Any other numbers are based on the information we can find about the sales.
Other parts of our campaign are sending letters, emails, tissue boxes, and “communication” stones. Any Stargate fan knows the significance of this.
We have also asked fans to send in pictures and videos showing their love for the show and have received an enormous response. This part of the campaign has taken on a life of its own and has become a great source of humor and emotion for the cause.
Why Facebook instead of your own webpage or a forum?
If it worked for Team Coco, why not Save SGU? It is a very integral part of media today. We can reach more people faster through Facebook by updating our status, adding pictures and notes, and creating events. And people share what they learn here faster than they would from another site. We plan to move forward with this by adding actual webpages and forums, but Facebook is our lifeline to the fans.
This allows us to organize everyone within hours. Judging by the increase in our numbers, it is an invaluable tool. Also, the fans are able to share their displeasure on the pages of SyFy, MGM, and NBCUniversal. Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re active on Digg, YouTube, Twittter, Amplify and Tumblr.
For those who might say that this is a lost cause, we say this. We will continue to fight for Stargate Universe, the Stargate franchise, and Science Fiction until things change. There is always hope. There is always a way.
By sticking together and sounding as one voice, we have power. And we will continue to increase that power. The movement has begun and it will not be stopped. We encourage all Stargate fans and science fiction fans to hang in there with us. There is nothing we cannot do if we stand together.
Presumably fulfilling its post-rebranding promise to “Imagine Greater,” the former Sci Fi Channel — now known as Syfy — has imagined its way right out of the niche that made the cable network.
Forget about space operas, tech dramas or B-movie monsters (except for “Mega Piranha” — never forget “Mega Piranha”), programming shake-ups reveal Syfy is ready to live up to its theme-less new name. If the recent announcement that “Top Chef” alum Marcel Vigneron would be joining the network for a cooking show called “Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen” wasn’t proof enough, Syfy’s acquisition of “Friday Night SmackDown” should be.
Not that Syfy really wants anyone catching on to that fact. Much like shoehorning the word “quantum” into the title of Vigneron’s upcoming gastronomic offering acts as a symbolic nod to traditional viewers, Syfy’s president, David Howe, hopes he can even convince fans that wrestling somehow fits the old and largely abandoned genre, too.
After all, World Wrestling Entertainment’s “SmackDown” marks “the ultimate in imagination-based sports entertainment,” according to Howe.
Heh. Nice try.
Ultimately “SmackDown” marks the devolving of the network for a sweet, sweet slice of that 18-to-34 male demographic that sponsors love so much. That means money.
So move over, nerds! This is the jocks’ table now. Or it will be come October when the “SmackDown” deal takes effect.
Of course, this is hardly the first time cable TV has seen genre-based programming pushed aside for profit. Remember when MTV was all about the music videos? Or when TLC’s educational shows lived up to the network’s full name, The Learning Channel? Maybe Howe should tune in to “Jersey Shore” or catch “19 Kids and Counting” to see where the future lies before delivering a double underhook piledriver to Syfy’s faithful audience.
Then again, given the undeniable success of those shows, maybe not.
It shouldn’t matter anyway. There’s more than one way to make a buck, and the network knows it. “Battlestar Galactica,” Syfy’s indisputable high-water mark, illustrated that during most of its run. Give sci-fi fans quality entertainment and they’ll tune in. Heck, give them subpar special effects and a good plot, and they’ll still turn in sometimes. Got some old “Star Trek: Voyager” reruns lying around? That’ll do in a pinch.
Or, you know, Syfy could always “Imagine Greater” sci-fi shows.
Shift in priorities
Nah! That’s crazy talk. Why do something like that when a proven ratings grabber and young male magnet like “SmackDown” is available? There may be little in the way of a discernible crossover audience, but who cares? It’s clearly not about the sci-fi fans.
After all, the problem isn’t simply Syfy’s addition of wrestling to its lineup. The network inexplicably welcomed wrestling years ago with “Extreme Championship Wrestling” and more recently with “WWE NXT,” but bringing the bigger budget “Friday Night SmackDown” to the schedule marks a shift in priorities.
Not only was the deal said to come at a premium price tag, with Variety estimating Syfy’s yearly “SmackDown” tab at “close to $30 million” (Yikes! Just think how many “Mansquito” spin-offs could have been produced with that dough), it also relocates the network’s Friday night block of original programming.
Yes, like it or not, all those shows now occupying prime-time nerd night, what was once the beloved “Battlestar Galactica’s” place of honor, will shuffle off to Tuesday to make room for the new two-hour block of bikini-clad men. “Stargate Universe,” “Sanctuary” and “Battlestar Galactica” prequel “Caprica” — some of Syfy’s best current content to make a date-free Friday night seem worthwhile — must simply make way for the guys with the big guns.
It’s as if the core audience, the sci-fi buffs that made the network a success to begin with, just don’t matter any more. It’s their programming that gets pushed aside. They’re the ones expected to alter their longtime viewing habits for the sake of the “Wrestlemania”-loving crowd. No one asked “SmackDown” to make a change.
Maybe they should, but they haven’t.
Imagine the possibilities
If the WWE honchos behind the show would just convince their overacting exhibitionists to don sci-fi costumes, viewers could enjoy a winning and oh-so-appropriate combination.
Just imagine hottie Drew McIntyre sporting an old-school Starfleet uniform while facing off against the beefy Kane decked out in his own reptilian finery. Bring Captain Kirk versus the Gorn captain into the wrestling ring and all complaints are off. Consider the slate clean with an Alien versus Predator matchup. Or mix it up with the Cybermen versus the Cylons — a guaranteed winner. The possibilities are endlessly entertaining.
But, as fun as it is to dream, they’re also extremely unlikely. Alas, the wrestling crowd won’t have to trade what they love for reenactments of classic or imagined sci-fi skirmishes. The outlandish antics of well-oiled good guys, bad guys and those that vacillate between extremes will continue without a hitch.
Read more at today.msnbc.msn.com
Sci-fi fans, on the other hand, can get ready to rumble, as the network they once called their own forces them to search out non-wrestling, non-cooking, non-reality TV shows amongst the increasingly sci-fi-free fare.