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Thomas Vitale

Moderator: Hello everyone and welcome. Tonight we have a full chat schedule. Right now we have in our chat room Thomas Vitale.

Moderator: Thomas is Senior Vice President of Acquisitions, Scheduling, and Program Planning at SCI FI. He's been with the channel since early '93, joining only a few months after SCI FI launched. He's worked with the team here to help the channel grow from a small network with only older product, to its current status as a network with more and more original fare.

Moderator: Thomas knows the value of connecting with the audience, and he asked us to schedule this chat so SCI FI viewers could get to know the programmers here a bit better. Questions about upcoming original products, current favorite series, and classic movies and series will all be fair game during this chat, though we can't promise that we'll have time to answer every question prior to the start of our chat with DUNE prequel author KEVIN J. ANDERSON.

Moderator: Weclome, we are chatting with Thoman Vitale, Thomas is Senior Vice President of Acquisitions, Scheduling, and Program Planning at SCI FI.

Moderator: Thomas, are you there?

Thomas-Vitale: I'm here!

Moderator: Great.

Thomas-Vitale: Hi everyone. Glad to be here. Thanks for coming!

Moderator: let start the questions.

Moderator: <InvisibleStarvedChocobo> Mr. Vitale, many people here have Invisible in front of their names, as you've undoubtedly noticed. This is in response to disturbing news about The Invisible Man, mainly that the future of the show is in serious jeopardy, and was actually cancelled briefly. We are all wondering, will I-Man be renewed for a third season?

Thomas-Vitale: Ahhh... I knew that would be the first question of the evening...

Thomas-Vitale: I'm an Invisible Man fan myself, and I think the show gets stronger with every episode.

Thomas-Vitale: We are in the process of figuring out next year's full schedule and IMan is on the list of strong contenders.

Thomas-Vitale: Unfortunately, I don't have a firm answer today, but we are hopeful that it will be back.

Thomas-Vitale: The issue is for Sci Fi and for syndication too, where the show is also seen (on local stations), so the decision is not entirely in Sci Fi's hands on this one...

Thomas-Vitale: As soon as we know what the resolution will be and the timing, we'll let you know through the site.

Moderator: <The> How much funding does it take for a show to be kept on tv (ie The Sentinel)

Thomas-Vitale: Lots!

Thomas-Vitale: These days, shows are funded internationally and domestically.

Thomas-Vitale: An hour drama for Sci Fi costs well north of one million per ep

Moderator: <MissingSliderRyan> Mr. Vitale, thank you for taking time to chat with us. Can you explain why Sliders was taken off the

Thomas-Vitale: Ratings had gone down after the Jerry O'Connell exited the show.

Moderator: Send any questions you have to the Moderator with /msg Moderator or simply

Moderator: double-click on the Moderator's name in the list of names on the right

Moderator: side of their screen.

Moderator: <Doretta78> Are all of our letters, phone calls helping the process? Should we be sending questions, etc. to other areas of programming as well as SciFi?

Thomas-Vitale: They do count.

Thomas-Vitale: We read the letters and forward to best ones around (not the nasty ones! :-)

Thomas-Vitale: We also keep track of the numbers sent on different shows.

Thomas-Vitale: It helps when we go to corporate to argue for more money for shows.

Thomas-Vitale: It was fun getting all the keys for Prey!

Thomas-Vitale: Did everyone see the Prey crossover on IMan a coupla weeks ago?

Moderator: <CrusadeMichael> Thank you for giving a home to the B5 universe through reruns and "Rangers"... I'd like to know if there's hope for a resurrection of the original spinoff, Crusade, which many of us are fans of

Thomas-Vitale: B5 Rangers is where JMS is focusing right now. If the movie does really well, there's a chance it can go to series. Inside of that series, some of the Crusade issues could be dealt with. Again, we won't know if it's going to

Thomas-Vitale: series until we see the viewer reaction.

Thomas-Vitale: Rangers is currently skedded for

Thomas-Vitale: January 2002

Thomas-Vitale: While we're waiting for the next q to be sent my way,

Thomas-Vitale: I'd like to hype this Saturday's movie -- Soulkeeper

Thomas-Vitale: This flick is really fun.

Thomas-Vitale: It stars Rodney Rowland and Kevin Patrick Walls

Thomas-Vitale: from 6th Day and Blade.

Thomas-Vitale: Also features genre faves like Karen Black and Robert Davi and Tiny Lister and

Thomas-Vitale: Brad Dourif.

Thomas-Vitale: Debbie Gibson has a fun cameo

Thomas-Vitale: this Sat at 9P

Thomas-Vitale: Every one e-mail and letter adds up.

Thomas-Vitale: When Dark Shadows was pulled for one year

Thomas-Vitale: we got over three thousand letters

Thomas-Vitale: the letters were why we returned DS to the station

Moderator: <RangerKoshN> To publicize the upcoming Babylon 5 - Legend of the Rangers Movie, why doesn't Sci-Fi enlist the help of the Babylon 5/Crusade fans, by providing some inside-the-window decals and/or bumperstickers? That could reach people who don't currently have Sci-Fi. Might pick up some subscribers.

Thomas-Vitale: our marketing group is looking

Thomas-Vitale: for some grass roots ways for fans

Thomas-Vitale: to help promote B5

Thomas-Vitale: our web group is looking into the same

Thomas-Vitale: i agree -- the best people to push rangers are

Thomas-Vitale: the committed fans of the b5 uni

Thomas-Vitale: watch this space for how you can help

Moderator: <weirdfi> How hard did you work on getting 'Enterprise' before UPN got it? What happened with the ST:TNG thing? It seems to me that SCIFI channel isn't really getting any of the big new scifi. :-( (andromeda, enterprise, etc.)

Thomas-Vitale: good question!

Thomas-Vitale: there's a long, boring answer to this, but I'll try to be quick...

Thomas-Vitale: it's about what company owns what network...

Thomas-Vitale: UPN is owned by Paramount.

Thomas-Vitale: Paramount owns the star trek world

Thomas-Vitale: Enterprise is good for UPN which is good for Paramount...

Thomas-Vitale: we chase every big

Thomas-Vitale: show we can, but sometimes

Thomas-Vitale: business considerations get in the way...

Moderator: <InternetJunkie> Mr. Vitale, Prey Fans want to thank you airing Prey so often. Will you continue to air it?

Thomas-Vitale: Yup. Prey will continue to run from time to time. Too bad that series didn't make it on ABC... It

Thomas-Vitale: was getting really interesting when it was pulled

Moderator: <ala> Given the significant decreases in ad revenue in the last 6+ months for all Networks, how has this affected SCI-FI's business strategy, in general, and, particularly it's original programming acquisition strategy? Can you give us some insights into the strategic business strategy, in general?

Thomas-Vitale: Wow! Some question! :-)

Thomas-Vitale: We just spent a few days in meetings on this question.

Thomas-Vitale: the ad market is tough this year for all networks

Thomas-Vitale: that said, Sci Fi has been planning for it.

Thomas-Vitale: We have a lot of original programming

Thomas-Vitale: for 2002.

Thomas-Vitale: Farscape is returning with the final 4 eps

Thomas-Vitale: of season 3

Thomas-Vitale: plus two more seasons after that.

Thomas-Vitale: Lexx, The Chronicle, Outer Limits

Thomas-Vitale: are all coming back with more originals too

Thomas-Vitale: We also have an original

Thomas-Vitale: Firestarter miniseries in March 2002

Thomas-Vitale: A sequel movie to Interceptor Force

Thomas-Vitale: Puppetmaster vs. Demonic Toys --- for some fun horror in 02

Thomas-Vitale: A Lord of the Rings special on December 9th

Thomas-Vitale: and a new season of Stargate -- for Sci Fi, not Showtime

Thomas-Vitale: And there's other original stuff too.

Thomas-Vitale: So, no matter what happens with the economy

Thomas-Vitale: Sci Fi will have a ton of originals next year

Thomas-Vitale: and some acquired series from other networks too!

Moderator: <tillia> Here's a Lexx question--which by the way is the most fascinating show not just on SciFi but on TV--when the new eps start in January will you show them all the way through or is another hiatus coming?

Thomas-Vitale: We will most likely show the Lexx eps all the way through this time

Thomas-Vitale: These upcoming eps are the best they've done so far

Thomas-Vitale: Lexx is one of the strangest shows on tv, which makes it perfect for Sci Fi

Thomas-Vitale: I mean... what other network would do Lexx?

Thomas-Vitale: I'm glad you like the series!

Thomas-Vitale: Please stand by... another question coming...

Moderator: <Eternal> Most fans don't write letters directly to the show or the station. Do you ever visit the websites put up by fans to see what they like about the show or what direction they'd like a character or story to take?

Moderator: <CrusadeMartin> Q: Why was the sequence of Earth: Final Conflict interrupted and Tale from the Crypt subed? When will EFC return to SciFi?

Thomas-Vitale: good question and I'm glad you asked it...

Thomas-Vitale: We put efc on at 10PM

Thomas-Vitale: we thought that was the perfect time for it

Thomas-Vitale: we were wrong

Thomas-Vitale: the show got low ratings at 10P

Thomas-Vitale: it could be because 10P isn't the right time for efc viewers

Thomas-Vitale: or maybe we premiered it at the wrong time of year

Thomas-Vitale: I wish i knew that answer...

Thomas-Vitale: that said --

Thomas-Vitale: EFC is definitely coming back to SCI FI

Thomas-Vitale: When we bring it back, we will start from ep 1 again

Thomas-Vitale: since the show is sequential

Thomas-Vitale: i don't have the exact date

Thomas-Vitale: but it will be back within the first

Thomas-Vitale: few months of 02

Thomas-Vitale: I wish we didn't have to pull it

Thomas-Vitale: but when we bring it back, it will stay on the air

Moderator: <I-ManNickChick> Will Sci-Fi ever continue original programming through the fall without taking four month hiatuses?

Thomas-Vitale: the fall is a tough time

Thomas-Vitale: for cable nets

Thomas-Vitale: all of the network premieres and all

Thomas-Vitale: however, we're beginning to think that ducking the fall season

Thomas-Vitale: might not be the best strategy

Thomas-Vitale: which is why we have original product

Thomas-Vitale: this fall -- like Soulkeeper this Saturday

Thomas-Vitale: and the original movie Epoch on

Thomas-Vitale: November 24th

Thomas-Vitale: Epoch stars David Keith and Ryan O'Neal and James Hong

Thomas-Vitale: and is a good alien-action flick.

Thomas-Vitale: If Soulkeeper and Epoch do well

Thomas-Vitale: this fall,

Thomas-Vitale: then we know that originals will work for

Thomas-Vitale: us in the fall.

Thomas-Vitale: If they do, then we'll have more originals next

Thomas-Vitale: fall, including original series.

Moderator: <Eternal> Most fans don't write letters directly to the show or the station. Do you ever visit the websites put up by fans to see what they like about the show or what direction they'd like a character or story to take?

Thomas-Vitale: I do read fan websites, as do the show producers and the other programmers and marketers here...

Thomas-Vitale: I know that David Kemper (Farscape) and Chris Brancato (First Wave)

Thomas-Vitale: do read the sites.

Thomas-Vitale: We also read what's posted about Sci Fi's

Thomas-Vitale: programming on other sites...

Thomas-Vitale: complaints and compliments.

Thomas-Vitale: So yes, web chat is important.

Moderator: <prion> - What input, creative or financial, will SCI FI have in the 6th season of STARGATE? I've read that there will be at least one new character due to the departure of Michael Shanks.

Thomas-Vitale: Both creative and financial.

Thomas-Vitale: We are helping to fund that season,

Thomas-Vitale: which is why we are getting the eps before any other channel.

Thomas-Vitale: When you help fund a series, you have some creative input.

Thomas-Vitale: that said, the Stargate team

Thomas-Vitale: is so good at what they do

Thomas-Vitale: and are making such a strong series

Thomas-Vitale: that the best thing Sci Fi can do,

Thomas-Vitale: is step to the side and let

Thomas-Vitale: the Stargate team do what they do

Thomas-Vitale: We bought the series because we like it and

Thomas-Vitale: have such confidence in the team.

Thomas-Vitale: We can't wait for its premiere (probably June 02).

Moderator: <InvisibleHei-Mao> Is there any chance that anime movies will return to Sci-Fi scheduling?

Thomas-Vitale: Anime! I wish... but probably not...

Thomas-Vitale: I was the guy who bought the anime movies we used to air.

Thomas-Vitale: I'm a big fan of anime and pushed to have it on Sci Fi.

Thomas-Vitale: When we first aired anime, we were the only channel airing it.

Thomas-Vitale: We got lots of attention in the press

Thomas-Vitale: and some decent ratings

Thomas-Vitale: Then, other networks started airing it

Thomas-Vitale: the best stuff was on video first

Thomas-Vitale: and the viewers stopped coming in

Thomas-Vitale: meaningful numbers.

Thomas-Vitale: So, we don't air anime anymore

Thomas-Vitale: and probably won't for a few years... :-(

Moderator: <MarquisDsad> Here's a ratings question, since the word comes up a lot: What exactly goes into a show's "ratings"? I see number for shows in newspapers put up the same week the show is broadcast. Where does the data come from, and how big of a sample of the USA's population is considered in this? I'm really concerned about this 'system', since everyone's favorite shows depend on it. Thanks. :)

Thomas-Vitale: Ratings -- the holy grail of the biz!

Thomas-Vitale: There's a four hour answer, and a shorter answer...

Thomas-Vitale: let's go for the shorter answer...

Thomas-Vitale: A show's rating is the % of people (or households) in America watching that show.

Thomas-Vitale: A show's share is the percentage of people watching tv at a given moment who are watching that show.

Thomas-Vitale: So a 10 rating and 18 share means

Thomas-Vitale: that 10% of all households in the US

Thomas-Vitale: are watching a show

Thomas-Vitale: and that 18% of all households with the tv turned on

Thomas-Vitale: are watching that show

Thomas-Vitale: The numbers are collected by Nielsen

Thomas-Vitale: who have phd statisticians'

Thomas-Vitale: working on them

Thomas-Vitale: Nielsen numbers are generally

Thomas-Vitale: accurate within 5% or so -- there's been

Thomas-Vitale: independent test of the Nielsen numbers

Thomas-Vitale: and its pretty accurate

Thomas-Vitale: not perfect, but pretty good...

Thomas-Vitale: Watch Sci Fi -- make our ratings higher!!! :-))

Thomas-Vitale: New question coming soon...

Thomas-Vitale: or so I'm told by the moderator...

Moderator: <TSteddy123> Does it impress the advertisers if they are written personally , maybe even enough for them to support a certain show????

Thomas-Vitale: Depends on the company.

Thomas-Vitale: some advertisers are very clued into the viewers

Thomas-Vitale: others aren't.

Thomas-Vitale: Letters never hurt.

Thomas-Vitale: Sometimes they help.

Thomas-Vitale: And again, Sci Fi reads letters sent to it

Thomas-Vitale: though we don't have the staff to answer the letters.

Thomas-Vitale: But we do consider them.

Thomas-Vitale: All of them.

Moderator: <invisiblepipsqueak> OK, here's an easy question: did you guys get the cookies we sent in support of Iman ... or did the mailroom guys snag 'em? ;-)

Thomas-Vitale: Ahhh... VIEWER FOOD!!!

Thomas-Vitale: There's always a debate here about whether or not

Thomas-Vitale: to eat viewer food...

Thomas-Vitale: But we always do eat the food

Thomas-Vitale: or at least the cookies.

Thomas-Vitale: They were good! We also got some brownies recently that were good.

Moderator: <Paine> Has the recent influx of Horror programming been to fill slots since most shows are on hiatus between seasons? Or is this going to be a standard trend of Scifi to increase the percentage of programming with horror genre?

Thomas-Vitale: We are not making a distinct effort to go

Thomas-Vitale: more towards horror

Thomas-Vitale: Horror, fantasy, the supernatural, etc.

Thomas-Vitale: are all part

Thomas-Vitale: of our genre -- all subgenres

Thomas-Vitale: Sometimes the programming is dictated by

Thomas-Vitale: what's available

Thomas-Vitale: other times by our need to

Thomas-Vitale: give viewers a diversity of selection

Thomas-Vitale: For every sf fan, there's a horror fan

Thomas-Vitale: So we try to embrace all genre fans.

Thomas-Vitale: If it feels like the channel is more horror

Thomas-Vitale: lately,

Thomas-Vitale: in a couple of months it

Thomas-Vitale: might feel more sf.

Thomas-Vitale: It's cyclical.

Thomas-Vitale: October is a big horror month for us, though.

Thomas-Vitale: Halloween and all...

Thomas-Vitale: More sf coming

Moderator: <Nivek62> Will First Wave re--air in re-runs any time soon?

Thomas-Vitale: First Wave will start stripping in the 1st or 2nd quarter of 02

Thomas-Vitale: "Stripping" -- tv lingo for running 4 or 5 days per week at the same time period

Moderator: <MaryFX> Another First Wave question. Any chance of a First Wave movie sponsored by Sci-Fi?

Thomas-Vitale: We look at movie possibilities for all

Thomas-Vitale: known science fiction properties.

Thomas-Vitale: That's why we are doing the Firestarter sequel miniseries next March.

Thomas-Vitale: First Wave (and others) all remain possibilities.

Thomas-Vitale: Though, sometimes it's hard to get

Thomas-Vitale: the original cast and crew together.

Thomas-Vitale: But, yes, it is a possibility down the road.

Moderator: <Jeanne1> What most influenced Sci-Fi to do the Iman/Prey Cross-Over Episode?

Thomas-Vitale: KEYS!!!

Thomas-Vitale: Seriously, after getting hundreds of

Thomas-Vitale: "Let Tom Out of the Cage" letters (and keys)

Thomas-Vitale: from fans

Thomas-Vitale: we knew we had to do something.

Thomas-Vitale: Since Vince Ventresca was the star of

Thomas-Vitale: IMan,

Thomas-Vitale: and there wasn't a chance to

Thomas-Vitale: do a Prey movie in the foreseeable future,

Thomas-Vitale: and since we wanted to satisfy the fans

Thomas-Vitale: who sent the hundreds of keys

Thomas-Vitale: and thousands of letters

Thomas-Vitale: the idea hit us here in NY

Thomas-Vitale: to do a crossover with Prey and IMan.

Thomas-Vitale: So, you see -- fan involvement

Thomas-Vitale: does influence programming.

Moderator: We are going to have to wrap it up soon. Well take a few more questions

Moderator: <tina-als-girl> Mr. Vitale, are there any plans for reviving Quantum Leap?

Moderator: We lost Thomas.

Moderator: I'm trying to get him back

Moderator: Sorry folks, but we can't get Thomas back on...

Moderator: Someone flooded the channel and he got bounced

Moderator: We have to end this chat because it is time to Chat with...

Moderator: Kevin J. Anderson

Moderator: Thomas will be back in a few months to do this again

Moderator: he thanks you all for coming.

Moderator: Please stick around foe Keven J Anderson, Author of Dune: House Corrino