Hammer steps back from day-to-day control
Mark Stern to reshape the Sci Fi brand, making the network more appealing to a non-geek crowd. Cabler ended 2007 with its best ratings and revenue since its launch. It also will no doubt increase speculation that Hammer could be poised for another promotion within the NBC U cable universe. She’s overseen USA and Sci Fi for four years now, paving the way for major growth at both cablers. And with Jeff Gaspin promoted last year to a bigger gig within the conglom, there’d be room for a new exec to just focus on heading up all of the Peacock’s cablers. “I’m a happy camper, and they treat me very well here,” Hammer said of her NBC U bosses. “My assumption and my hope is that I will be around for a long time.” Howe identified several major immediate and long-term goals, most of which revolve around expanding the Sci Fi brand and building revenue streams not directly connected to the linear network. “This brand has so much more untapped potential,” Howe said. “My role is to really figure out how we take Sci Fi as a cable network and build it into more of an affinity lifestyle brand. “As things stand, we’re primarily a cable TV brand,” he added. “In five years’ time, I’d love to be able to say that Sci Fi is no longer just a cable network but a category killer in videogames, mobile and the youth market.” Howe said that by the end of that five-year frame, he’d like to see one-third of Sci Fi’s revenues coming from sources other than the cable channel. He also hinted that he’s been having talks with sister company Universal Studios about launching a movie brand linked to the network. “I’d love for there to be a Sci Fi Pictures label out there,” he said, emphasizing that nothing was imminent. Other priorities for Howe include:
- International expansion. “At the end of 2007, Sci Fi was in 10 markets,” he said. “By the end of 2008, we’re hoping to be in 20 markets, and I think we might even surpass that.”
- Digital. Sci Fi launched a tech-themed site last year and has plans for more specialty offshoots of its Sci Fi.com hub. “You’ll see us diversifying and spin off into more stand-alone websites,” Howe said, identifying men 18-34 as the target of Sci Fi’s digital love.
- Replacing “Battlestar Galactica.” Signature skein is preparing to exit, and Howe, working with Stern, is keen to find the next big scripted success for the channel.