In Defense of Syfy’s Defiance

Science Fiction, by its very nature, has always been about exploring new possibilities.  The very best of the genre has given us glimpses into a realized future, paving a way for innovation.  The Syfy channel may just be doing that now with their new show, Defiance, but not necessarily in the way you think. While the show may be borrowing from a variety of past creations, the producers are trying something rather groundbreaking with the production – creating a transmedia IP that is living as both a television program and video game concurrently.

It’s a gamble, but it’s one with a certain logic behind it a Content Lab reports: “It’s also an attempt to cater to a highly engaged, billion-dollar audience: participants of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.”

Syfy is pouring a lot of money, a reported $60-70 million on the game alone, to make Defiance a hit. For HBO, the costs of an ambitious show like Game of Thrones can be covered by subscriptions, but Syfy needs to generate revenue in other ways, and no doubt had that in mind with the creation of Defiance. Again, from Content Lab: “Moreover, the transmedia [Ed. note – actually, I’d call it intermedia] approach also raises intriguing possibilities for in-game advertising. It’s not too difficult to see how a product used in the show, such a vehicle or branded clothing, could appear naturally as elements in the game.”

No doubt this is new territory and Syfy along with game partner Trion have got a lot riding on the success of Defiance. While initial reviews of the show and game were tepid, Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat reports: “In fact, the premiere of Defiance outperformed Game of Thrones on its own premiere day. Syfy hasn’t had a show this hot since Eureka, and its second-screen tablet app posted its best day ever with the debut. The digital stats in terms of uniques, page views, and visits are stellar.

Meanwhile, the massively multiplayer online game has scored 6 million hours of playtime since the launch two weeks ago. I’ve poured around 10 hours into it myself. This transmedia — or a story that is told in more than one medium — has to be considered a success in terms of its ability to grab attention even though it appeared on the same day as the Boston bombings.”

I honestly don’t know if Defiance is going to be a success, it’s impossible to know for certain after two weeks, but I do feel confident in saying that brands should be working to understand what’s at play here. Consumers’ attitudes and expectations towards entertainment and content have changed. The idea of watching unique content on multiple platforms, sometimes even simultaneously, is becoming more accepted, if not expected. This provides massive new opportunities for brands to integrate across multiple touchpoints, creating longer engagements with fans through programming they want to watch. Categories like food, travel and technology could all look to take advantage of this in new and compelling ways.