Syfy Channel will move its Friday night dramas to Tuesdays starting in October, the network announced this week.
Stargate Universe, Sanctuary and Caprica will air on Tuesday nights, where the network has had great success in the summer months with Eureka and Warehouse 13, its two highest rated original series. SGU and Sanctuary air in the fall months, Caprica in the winter. SGU then returns for the second half of its season during the spring.
The reason? Syfy has picked up … wait for it … WWE Friday Night SmackDown, one of the many professional wrestling shows that seem to draw big viewership for cable networks, particularly among the coveted young male demographics.
That series will debut October 1 at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, and run two hours in length. Rather than pairing Stargate and its other scripted dramas with wrestling, Syfy is opting to maintain SmackDown‘s Friday night presence and give its dramas — which have seen sliding ratings on Friday nights for several years — a try on another night of the week.
SmackDown is a veteran 10-year-old series that has been airing on Friday nights since 2005. It comes to Syfy from the MyNetworkTV syndication group, having originally aired on UPN and then The CW. The series launched in 1999 and averages more than 3.4 million viewers each week.
Stargate Universe, the current Friday night leader for Syfy during the fall, draws about half that.
“With Tuesday night, a proven winner for our original drama series including Warehouse 13, there is bigger opportunity for series such as Stargate Universe, Sanctuary and Caprica to thrive on a night with a significantly larger number of viewers available to watch live,” Syfy president Dave Howe said.
The move to Tuesdays makes a premiere of either September 28 or October 5 likely. The latter would follow Syfy’s pattern of starting off the quarter with new series; but it would also cede a bigger jump on the new fall season to the broadcast networks.
What seems like a minor shift in scheduling strategy could actually have big ramifications for Stargate and the cable network — hopefully for the better.
Friday night is notorious for being one of the least-watched nights of television, earning the “graveyard” moniker for the big networks. Because science fiction genre shows struggle with finding a general audience by their very nature, networks and cable channels have typically relegated them to the Friday time slots anyway — where there are lower expectations to perform.
Add the fact that sci-fi fans are statistically more likely to be early adopters of DVR technology and watch their favorite Friday night shows later, and you begin to see why series like Stargate see some of the biggest ratings boosts when the DVR-delayed viewing is factored in. For shows like Stargate and Battlestar Galactica, those viewership increases have been upwards of 45 to 50 percent.
Taking SGU and other dramas to Tuesdays — a highly-watched night of the week — could pay off in spades for Syfy. But the competition with bigger network shows, of course, also increases the risk. The networks’ new fall season is expected to premiere in late September. And Tuesdays boasts some of television’s biggest juggernauts, including FOX’s American Idol in the springtime.
Syfy Channel previously experimented with Galactica on Sunday nights, but didn’t see much improvement in the ratings for the critically acclaimed series. It moved back to Friday nights for its final run of episodes.
Syfy is following its sister network USA in taking its scripted series off Friday nights. USA has seen great success for such shows as Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, and Royal Pains on other weeknights. It also airs WWE’s other weekly series, WWE Raw, on Mondays.
Whether or not the gamble will pay off for Syfy and Stargate Universe is anyone’s guess. We’ll certainly be watching the numbers very closely when Season Two begins this fall!
What do you think? Is it a good move for the network and the shows to go to Tuesday? Sound off below!
(Thanks to Ryan, Morjana, Gary, Madwelshboy, Tanith, Brandon, Justin, Diogo, Jonno, Robert, Meh, Jim, and Jeff for the tip)
NEXT: The press release