Will SyFy's Comic Book TV Show Gambit Pay Off?

NBCUniversal's SyFy network recently announced a total of four comic book adaptations that are in the works. Is the network just trying to see what will stick with comic audiences, or is there a plan in place?

May 14, 2014 at 8:48AM

Comics are all the rage in Hollywood. In addition to big-budget comic adaptations from companies like Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros., and Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) dominating the box office, small-screen heroes and comic adaptations are becoming much more common. While the majority of these have been based on properties from Disney's Marvel Comics and Time Warner's DC Comics, the success of "The Walking Dead" reminds us that an adaptation doesn't have to be based on DC or Marvel properties to be popular.

Hoping to take advantage of this, Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) SyFy network has announced plans for comic adaptations of its own. However, unlike other networks such as ABC and the CW, which are using a more organic spin-off model to gradually add more shows, SyFy is jumping right into the fray with four adaptations announced right off the bat.


Clone no. 6
Source: Image Comics

SyFy's comic slate
The first adaptation announced by SyFy is "Pax Romana." The adaptation will be based on a four-issue Image Comics limited series that sees the Vatican sending modern weapons and enhanced soldiers to ancient Rome in an attempt to prevent a world war and secure its future. Things go wrong, of course, because travelling through time to fix the future and bring about your own version of peace seldom goes well.

In addition to "Pax Romana," there were three additional comic adaptations announced: Frank Miller's limited series "Ronin," "Clone" from Robert Kirkman's Skybound imprint, and "Letter 44" from Oni Press. "Ronin" and "Pax Romana" will be broadcast as miniseries events, while "Clone" and "Letter 44" will receive the full series treatment. 

Part of the new trend
SyFy isn't the only network placing bets on comic adaptations. Comcast's NBC network recently unveiled the trailer for "Constantine," based on DC Comics' "Hellblazer" comics, while Twenty-First Century Fox is taking its "Batman" prequel series "Gotham" direct to series. Disney's ABC renewed Marvel Studios' "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" and ordered a first season of the "Agent Carter" limited series.

Meanwhile, Time Warner's The CW network has ordered season three of "Arrow," a first season of "The Flash," and a first season of its adaptation of DC Comics' "iZombie." Comics are hot properties, and these adaptations attempt to cash in on the popularity of big-screen superhero films such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and 2013's Man of Steel.


Frank Miller's Ronin
Source: DC Comics

Why so many?
The big question is why SyFy is launching so many adaptations now instead of easing into them with only one or two titles. When you stop and think about it, though, that's essentially what it is doing. Since "Pax Romana" and "Ronin" will use a miniseries format, they'll air as one-time events over the course of a few nights and won't have any further impact on the network's viewership. While they may bring in a number of viewers and possibly score decent ratings, it's "Clone" and "Letter 44" that will carry the weight of being longer-term adaptations.

Splitting its adaptations across different genres as well as different series formats allows SyFy to leverage its programming, casting a wide net to draw in viewers. This allows the network to throw multiple comic properties at the audience and see what sticks, potentially fueling either repeat viewership for the two series or eventual DVD/Blu-ray/digital sales for the two miniseries. Being able to use names like "Kirkman" (who will also help produce "Clone") and "Miller" may also help to draw in viewers who are fans of the comic creators' works.

Will it pay off?
When a lot of people think of SyFy, low-budget B-movies like Sharknado come to mind. The network has had a number of successful TV shows and miniseries events, though, including "Battlestar Galactica," "Eureka," and "Dune." Unfortunately, it also finds itself short on major hits with growth potential at the moment. Branching out into comic adaptations might help to change that.

Moreover, this could indicate a shift in the network's programming plans to draw a little closer to its science fiction roots than some of its past programming offerings. All four of the adaptations will deal with science fiction concepts in some way, and this will fit in well with other recent shows such as "Dominion" and "Z-Nation" that the network has ordered.

Of course, there's always the possibility that none of the shows will hit very big.

This is another area where offering two of the adaptations as miniseries events pays off -- if they aren't popular, SyFy won't have to try and find a new property to take the place of the shorter events. While the two other adaptations will have to entice audiences, the source material (a man discovering that he has been cloned and a president informing his successor about a looming alien invasion) offers the potential for at least a solid season of each if not a chance for larger franchises.

Your cable company is scared, but you can get rich
With all the new ways to consume content, you know cable as we know it is going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 


John Casteele has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information