Syfy, Stern in Comcast orbit

Exec named original programming president

Syfy’s Mark Stern, who has overseen the channel’s rapid series expansion, has been rewarded with the title of original programming president.

Move comes on the eve of the NBC Universal-Comcast merger and cements the exec’s growing role within the company. The NBC U cabler is expected to announce Stern’s promotion today during NBC U’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour.

Stern had previously served as exec VP of original programming. He continues to report to Syfy president Dave Howe (who’s about to add oversight of Chiller to his duties as well).

Howe called Stern “an incredibly creative and business-savvy leader.”

“Mark is a supremely smart and talented executive whose unbridled passion, energy and imagination continue to drive Syfy’s world-class development team.”

Stern has been busy in recent years overseeing Syfy’s entry into new arenas such as reality TV and now feature films. The exec has creative oversight on Syfy Films, the new joint venture recently launched with sister Universal Pictures.

“It’s evolving in all sorts of different ways,” Stern said of his job. “We’re looking for cool new ways to extend the brand and bring our expertise to a broader arena. … We’ve been broadening out the genre for the last six, seven years. Some big swings don’t pan out, but they’re all worth taking swings on. We’ve done a lot over these past few years; it’s really been about this entire team.”

Stern also remains co-head of original content at Universal Cable Prods. along with USA’s Jeff Wachtel. The studio’s first two projects, Syfy’s “Warehouse 13” and USA’s “Royal Pains,” have turned into hits for their respective nets.

Under Stern and Wachtel, Universal Cable Prods. has also started developing fare for outside nets, landing pilots at MTV and Lifetime (as well as development at AMC, A&E and Oxygen).

Syfy has hit a few programming stumbles lately, as “Caprica” failed to deliver last fall and was pulled off the sked, while the channel recently confirmed the end of the line for “Stargate Universe.”

But next up, Syfy has high hopes for the U.S. adaptation of “Being Human,” which launches on Monday. And Syfy also recently gave greenlights to new entries “Alphas” and “Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome.”

Stern is also bullish on the reality side; channel’s inaugural Thursday night reality block was a solid performer for the net. Syfy recently gave renewals to “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files,” “Ghost Hunters International” and “Hollywood Treasures”; much more unscripted is in the works, including reality competish “Face Off” (which bows Jan. 26).

“We have an ambitious plan to continue to grow our slate of reality,” Stern said.

Under Stern, Syfy series have included “Battlestar Galactica,” “Stargate: Atlantis,” “Eureka,” “Sanctuary” and the mini “Tin Man,” plus original telepics like the infamously titled “Sharktopus.”

Stern joined Syfy in 2002; before that, he was a partner and president of the TV division at Trilogy Entertainment Group.

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