Which viewers should TV networks listen to?

TVEarSyfy.jpgA fun thing about working at Syfy is that we have a VERY vocal audience, and that means we get a lot of feedback. I personally see hundreds of notes from viewers each week through e-mail, Twitter, on our message boards, on Facebook…even actual letters. I also talk directly to viewers whenever I can, at places like Comic-Con or when I speak at Internet conferences.

Something viewers tell me all the time is that Syfy needs to LISTEN to its core audience and put the programming on that true sci-fi fans REALLY want to see. I agree 110%, except which audience and what programs? Turns out, just like the rest of the TV world, sci-fi fans don't agree on what they like and don't like. For everyone that loves Stargate, I can find someone who hates it. If you think giant monsters count as sci-fi, the next person over disagrees.

The most famous example I can think of is Battlestar Galactica. When we announced the Battlestar remake and that Starbuck was going to be (gasp!) a woman, a big selection of fandom went semi berserk. They hated the idea that Battlestar was being remade, and they REALLY hated Starbuck's gender switch. In the Wikipedia entry for Starbuck there's a great quote from Ron Moore on the topic:

When [the fans] heard Starbuck was going to be a woman, it was just like, There can never be peace between us! Blood has been spilled!

Guess what went on to become our most beloved series of all time, and which character became the fan favorite? Had we listened to the massive outcry of fans who hated the idea, we never would have made what some (including me) consider one of the best sci-fi shows in history. Let's not even get started on opinions about the ending…

Another perennial hot topic is our Saturday night movies, which often involve outrageous monsters and limited budgets. The fans who love them REALLY LOVE them and want more. The fans who hate them REALLY HATE them and don't want us to air them at all. To give you an example, yesterday I asked on Twitter: "What do you think of Syfy's Saturday night movies? Pro or con, I'd like to hear for an upcoming post I'm doing." Here are some of the replies:

CMSed @Syfy Pro, Pro, oh my GOD PRO!

8DDD @Syfy They seem like everything people don't like about/expect from bad Science Fiction: poorly crafted silliness with horrid acting.

shinyinfo2 @Syfy I LOVE the original movies. Every Saturday night I look forward to them. It's always sad when you don't play originals on
Sat. :(

rocknjosie @Syfy If one more animal dinosaur hybrid movie gets greenlighted…well I guess I'll just keep not watching them, so do what you gotta do

Annaleen @Syfy A wonderful guilty pleasure that keeps the old-fashioned drive-in movie spirit alive. Titles alone are great! "Mongolian Death Worm."

laeknir @Syfy about Syfy Saturday night movies, never watch them. Usually they are 1-star or worse, other stations often have better shows/movies.

dtheories @Syfy Enjoy Sat Night flicks. Good break from studies. Looking fwd to Lost Treasure and Shanks! Any chance for Escape from Mars or Sumuru?

naveedbhatti @Syfy they waste money that could have been used on things that were actually good, like Stargate: Atlantis

Gyphon @Syfy Saturday night movies are great. Keep them coming!

bradzb @Syfy honestly there hasn't been one that I could watch for more then 30 minutes in awhile. All pretty meh.

magicgirlsue @Syfy I enjoy your Sat nite movies. Original, campy, often a little twist- good fun! (Thank you)

Ghost Hunters is another polarizing show. People who believe in ghosts and think ghosts are part of science fiction love the show and want more. People who don't believe in ghosts or think ghosts don't count as science fiction want us to take it off the air. I'm pretty sure I can guess where BoingBoing readers will fall ;)

The only thing all our viewers agree on is that each one of them is right and people who don't agree with them are wrong! Our solution to this dilemma is simple: We take everyone's opinion into account. Not only about shows, but about individual episodes of shows. I've grown to love logging onto Twitter during episodes of our original series to talk to viewers about what they like (and don't like) while they're watching live. It's an amazingly fun and enlightening experience.

On a broader level, it's why we provide a mix of programming. We have Ghost Hunters and monster/disaster movies and dramas like Caprica and Stargate: Universe and old school series like Star Trek and The Outer Limits and "dramedies" (I personally hate that word btw) like Warehouse 13 and Eureka and reality shows like Destination Truth, etc.

It's a system that's inherently imperfect, always boisterous, ludicrously fun and actually works pretty well in the end.