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Q&A: Blake Callaway, SVP of marketing, SyFy

Blake Callaway, SVP of marketing, brand and strategy at cable network SyFy, discusses new ways to engage viewers

Q: You recently launched an interesting initiative with Shazam for the shows Eureka and Warehouse 13. Talk about that application, and the way you are using these tactics.

A: Our tagline is “Imagine Greater,” so we try to present ourselves — especially in the ad sales marketplace — as a place for innovation. Shazam [a mobile music application] had come to our digital global distribution team, and we thought that the idea was interesting. Shazam enables consumers to download and get extra information associated with music content. We thought: “how come we can’t do that for television?” There was a huge uptake on the percentage of people that visited our mobile site because of it and we thought it was a great first test. 

Q: What other digital direct initiatives does SyFy use to reach consumers?

A: We have a new show called Hollywood Treasure, which follows a memorabilia collector in Los Angeles. We will have a companion auction that coincides with the show. We will take some of our collectibles from our own SyFy programming, and auction those weekly then donate the proceeds to charity. It will be a fun experiment to push the level of interaction on-air and online in a slightly different and very entertaining way.

Q: How much of your overall marketing operation focuses on digital? Has the focus shifted to digital?

A: It’s becoming increasingly harder to separate traditional and digital. There’s a digital expression of anything that’s happening on SyFy. We don’t do one without the other.  

Q: What are some of the challenges for a TV network in creating digital direct strategies?

A: I think one challenge is how do you stay ahead of the curve? This marketplace is rapidly changing — the ground moves under your feet very quickly. Who knows what’s next? We’re looking at things like 3D and augmented reality. 

Q: Do you have a favorite direct strategy? Why does it work for your brand?

A: I think the Shazam test was a really interesting one and we learned a great deal. The opportunity is to do it on a more consistent basis. We will continue to bring in advertising partners who can find ways to deliver unique messaging to an engaged audience. I think that’s one I’d really like to expand on. 

Q: What are your predictions for your industry in the coming year? 

A: I think there definitely is an opportunity for us and every other advertiser to create truly immersive TV shows that have an online companion piece. I call it participatory TV.

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