Howe flying high at Sci Fi

Hammer taps exec VP and G.M.

NEW YORK — Bonnie Hammer has made her first major decision as president of both the USA Network and Sci Fi Channel, elevating Dave Howe to run Sci Fi as exec VP and general manager.

Howe joined Sci Fi in September 2001 and quickly rose to exec VP of marketing and brand strategy. Hammer said Howe’s “creative vision” has helped Sci Fi rack up its best ratings ever during the last two years.

In each of the first two quarters of 2004, Sci Fi has shown primetime gains of 9% in total viewers. During the first quarter in primetime, Sci Fi rose to seventh place (out of 53 ad-supported cable networks) in adults 25-54 and 10th place in total viewers and adults 18-49.

Howe said one of his main goals is “to improve the number of 18- to 49-year-olds who watch the channel.” The median age of Sci Fi’s primetime viewers from October 2003 to May 2004 was 46.5 — older than such networks as TNT, Bravo, Oxygen and ESPN.

One programming recipe for getting younger, Howe said, is more reality series along the lines of Sci Fi’s returning “Scare Tactics,” with Stephen Baldwin replacing Shannen Doherty as host for the new season. Among scripted programming, Howe looks to entice lots of 18-49s to the four-hour wrapup of “Farscape,” scheduled for October, and the six-hour “EarthSea,” a coming-of-age epic slated for December that will try to tap into the success of fantasy-themed blockbusters like the “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” theatrical tentpoles.

Howe said he’s expecting to attract more viewers overall to Sci Fi shows now that NBC is a sister network thanks to completion of the merger of NBC and Universal. The Peacock is committed to running on-air spots promoting Sci Fi miniseries and regular original series like “Stargate SG-1,” its sequel “Stargate: Atlantis” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

Before signing up with Sci Fi, Howe spent 15 years with the BBC in London, rising to controller of creative services. In that role he was responsible for marketing the BBC’s 17 U.K. and international TV channels.

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