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Summary:

Ah, the Sci-Fi Channel original movie. Even the channel’s recent name change to SyFy can’t keep Saturday nights from being must-see TV for B-movie fans who like their snakes mega-sized and their spiders on ice. A pretty wide range of actors have done their time fighting […]

Photo by The Bui Bros. (thebuibrothers.com)

Ah, the Sci-Fi Channel original movie. Even the channel’s recent name change to SyFy can’t keep Saturday nights from being must-see TV for B-movie fans who like their snakes mega-sized and their spiders on ice.

A pretty wide range of actors have done their time fighting CGI-rendered monsters, and today the Internet’s own Felicia Day joins their ranks, taking the lead role in the Little Red Riding Hood-inspired Red, which is due to premiere in 2011. (She’s a werewolf hunter!)

Being famous on the Internet doesn’t necessarily translate to offline success, but Day is the rare star who might just pull it off — at least, by SyFy’s standards. Why? Let’s look at the numbers.

First, what does SyFy consider to be a success? Well, their last major ratings hit for an original film was the premiere of Megafault in October 2009, which starred the late Brittany Murphy and was watched by 2.6 million people.

2.6 million people is a lot — but right now, Day has nearly 1.75 million Twitter followers, a number that keeps climbing, as seen in this chart from the last three months:

And that audience can be mobilized. According to Microsoft, the first two seasons of The Guild have reached nearly six million downloads, making it one of the most popular shows ever on Xbox LIVE.
In addition, every episode of the show’s first season, as hosted on YouTube, has topped one million views, and her first appearance on Atom.com’s Legend of Neil pushed the show to almost 420,000 views (the site in general has less viewership than YouTube, but most other episodes of the series received about half as many views).

And here’s the big one, of course: the Guild Season 3-promoting Do You Wanna Date My Avatar music video, which with 8.5 million views is the most-viewed video on The Guild‘s YouTube channel. If just one third of the people who watched Date My Avatar tune in for the premiere of Red next year, then that would mean 2.8 million views.

There’s no way to be sure how many Twitter followers Day will have in a year’s time, but 1.7 million is nothing to scoff at, and that number is likely to climb. If just half of that number were to tune into SyFy when they normally wouldn’t, that’d still mean an impressive bump in the network’s typical Saturday night viewership.

All of this is conjecture, though, and the challenge is getting people away from their computers and in front of their TVs. Network shows featuring Day as a guest actress haven’t benefited much in the ratings department from her guest spots: Her September 2008 House appearance did 12.3 million, while her December 2009 Lie to Me episode did 6.59 million — both numbers being relatively standard for those shows.

But neither of those shows seriously promoted Day or really capitalized on her online fame — meanwhile, SyFy makes prominent mention of her web series work in the Red press release. Personally, I think that’s a good sign, and who knows? By 2011, TV and web content might be well-integrated enough that we’ll see TV commercials for Red plugging its star as “Dr. Horrible‘s Felicia Day.”

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  1. Good analysis, Liz. While (arguably) no other web celeb has the kind of following Felicia does, it’s cool to be able to show that cable target numbers and web numbers are not that far apart. For years advertisers have been happy to give dollars to cable networks even when their original fare was, let’s say, not fantastic (Ice Spiders? Mansquito?), because the audience was, in their mind, significant enough. I think SyFy’s betting on Felicia shows that strong web content has a similar (or better) cost/eyeballs ratio to cable content. I really hope it works out.

    I think as time goes on and advertisers and cable networks grow wise to how inexpensive it is to produce on the web (even when – shocker – all the people involved get paid), the value of these very targeted niche shows will become clear. Of course, it can’t happen soon enough for me – I’ve got a Season 2 to make!

    -David Nett
    Creator, GOLD

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  2. I would argue that her television roles over the past 10 years is more than she needs to measure her success offline. It’s hard to stay relevant online, but even harder to work in television for 10 years.

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  3. I think this is a natural progression for Felicia and that it will be a success. The Twitter followers to rating points is a clever way of looking at it too.

    Tom Konkle
    Safety Geeks: SVI
    Invention with Brian Forbes

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  4. With all due respect, I think using her online numbers is a terrible way of predicting offline success.

    Half of her 1.75 million Twitter followers will watch the show? The clear dropoff in mid-January on your own chart demonstrates that the majority of her followers came from the maligned suggested-user list, people who probably have no idea who she is other than that they’re automatically following her. It’s been reported elsewhere that people who are not on the SUL top out at about 125,000-150,000 followers – I’d venture that perhaps 50,000 of her followers will watch the show’s premiere (for example, I liked her in Dr. Horrible, but I have no intention of watching this show).

    Your YouTube numbers also need to be looked at – 8.5 million is nothing to scoff at, but I have yet to see anywhere that YouTube views have converted to viewers/purchasers elsewhere. A cursory look at the top videos list demonstrates that it’s predominantly occupied by stars who had significant offline success, not vice versa (Miley Cyrus et al). Also, people watching a short video online is a vastly different audience than those looking for long-form science-fiction television on an obscure cable channel.

    While online success will likely correlate better with offline success in the future, I have a hard time seeing your numbers line up anywhere close to where you’ve predicted for now.

    If anything, I think 10% of an online audience following a star somewhere else is a very liberal estimate, not 1/3 to 1/2 as you’ve suggested.

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  5. Also worth pointing out that the role sounds ideally suited for Ms. Day’s talents as an actress. It’s not as if they cast a reality show star or celebutante, hoping to leverage her followers. They cast an actress, who might also provide a slice of viewers in addition to those who love those films on Saturday night.

    (PS-Say what you will about Mansquito, but it has been years since that movie was on and I still regularly quote the lines from the commercial. “Hey…Mansquito!” is so applicable to so many situations in life. How many other movies have that sort of staying power, campy or no?)

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  6. [...] web video stars who have been making the rounds this pilot season — not to mention web celebs like Felicia Day — they’d probably agree. More people explore the potential of this space as a way to [...]

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