Will Felicia Day’s Online Success Transfer Offline?

Photo by The Bui Bros. (thebuibrothers.com)

Ah, the Sci-Fi Channel original movie. Even the channel’s recent name change to SyFy (s GE) 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 (s MSFT), 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 (s GOOG), has topped one million views, and her first appearance on Atom.com’s (s VIA.B) 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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