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The Sci-Fi Channel premieres

A profile of a new TV station

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There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. Those weird, alien-looking signals you’ve been receiving on a previously blank cable channel aren’t messages from another planet. They’re part of the promotional campaign for the long-awaited, soon-to-be launched Sci-Fi Channel, a 24-hour basic cable network offering vintage science fiction reruns like Lost in Space and Battlestar Galactica, feature films like the Star Wars and Star Trek series, and original movies like Homewrecker (starring Robby Benson as a computer inventor whose creation runs amok, scheduled to air this fall). The channel, owned by USA Networks, is scheduled for a Sept. 24 launch in more than 100 cities (with an initial subscriber base of 10 million), but on Aug. 10 it began broadcasting a prelaunch feed of eerie sounds and psychedelic images of spinning planets and enigmatic alphabets. ”It’s a tease to give viewers a taste of what the network will be about,” explains Barry Schulman, the channel’s programming chief. ”It’s a hint of the spirit of our intentions.”

The obvious question: Is there enough intelligent life out there to support a channel devoted to space invaders and flying saucers? ”We’ve done a huge amount of research on that question,” insists Schulman, who claims his studies show ”there are approximately 62 million science fiction fans in the U.S. That’s enough to keep us going.” As to how many will tune in—not even HAL 2000 could compute an exact answer to that.