SURVEY NEWCOMER: SCI-FI HEADS IN RIGHT DIRECTION

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When the Sci-Fi Channel was conceived, studies showed 30% of Americans spent money and time on science fiction entertainment. Before the channel's November launch in the U.K., Scandinavia and the Benelux region, a European study put the number for the region at 61%.

"That was an early clue that we were headed in the extremely right direction," said Barry Frey, USA Networks' managing director of international sales.

This year the Sci-Fi Channel will start in South Africa, Canada and several Asian markets. "Focus groups [in Asia] are looking real good," Mr. Frey said. "There's even a word for `sci-fi' in Cantonese and Mandarin."

A print campaign by Euro RSCG, London, is themed "Television from the other side." U.K. bus shelter ads for its screening of "The Invisible Man" used microchips with disembodied voices asking bewildered commuters where the bus was.

The Sci-Fi Channel claims first-day average ratings in January to have been the highest of any ad-supported channel in three years, with 577,000 viewers, rising to a 2.1 rating from 1.8 by late January. It will reach 7 million European homes this year, Mr. Frey estimates.

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