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Stargate producer responds to Syfy’s arguments for SGU cancellation

Monday - May 16, 2011
Category: GENERAL | Tags:

After dropping the editorial hammer on Syfy Channel’s programming decisions over the past two weeks (not once but twice), this past Thursday we gave the network a bit of “equal time” to respond to a myriad of complaints from fans regarding the cancellation of Stargate Universe (story).  Craig Engler, a senior executive from the network, emphasized SGU‘s ratings drop during its first season, when it aired on Friday night — suggesting that with fewer than 2 million viewers (Live + 7 Days) it was already in the cancellation danger zone when it headed into its second season.

In a post at his blog, Stargate Universe executive producer Joseph Mallozzi weighed in on the issue and responded directly to several of Engler’s points.

“While I can empathize with fans who object to the abruptness of the cancellation after ten years on the network, one has to understand that television is a business,” Mallozzi began.  “If Syfy has alternate scripted programming that performs better on Mondays or Tuesdays in the fall, then it’s understandable why they would choose those shows over a third season of SGU.  That said, certain statements in the article had me scratching my head …”

To begin with, Engler compared SGU‘s series premiere ratings to those of Stargate Atlantis, observing that the former was 25 percent lower — evidently starting out the show at something of a disadvantage from its predecessors.

“Comparing the SGA premiere to the SGU premiere is grossly unfair,” Mallozzi said.  “First — Atlantis premiered during the summer while Universe — originally slated for a [summer] premiere — premiered in the much more competitive fall.  Second, the time between the two premieres has seen a significant increase in DVR usage and Internet downloads, and a simultaneous erosion in live viewership.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.”

Stargate Atlantis premiered with over 4 million viewers in July 2004, according to Syfy.

In this case, then, the issue was not so much with Stargate‘s ability to find an audience as with the difference between the summer and fall seasons (Syfy’s highest rated dramas air in the summertime) — and a change in television viewing habits and options since 2004.

“Simply put,” Mallozzi said, “back when Atlantis aired, fewer viewers were recording or downloading television and many more were watching television live.”

He also took exception to Engler’s observation that Tuesdays had been very successful for other Syfy shows, including the top-rated Warehouse 13 — since such shows were summer hits.  Stargate premiered in the summer on both Showtime and Syfy for the previous 12 years, with the sole exception of Stargate Atlantis‘s fourth season.

While acknowledging that he wasn’t privy to the final decision-making process, Mallozzi also questioned Engler’s suggestion that it was MGM alone who ended Stargate Atlantis in favor of the new series.  “At the time, when we asked the studio whether or not there was any interest on their part in producing a sixth season of Atlantis, I was told that, while the increased budget made a Season Six less attractive for them, there were other reasons to do it (i.e. as a lead-in to the new series),” he said.

“It’s possible that the studio had an eleventh hour change of heart — but I’m not sure why they would have.”

While the producers and the network may not see eye-to-eye on how the show’s fate was sealed, Mallozzi does acknowledge that “television is a business.  It’s unfair to expect the network to pick up a third season of a show if it doesn’t make financial sense to them.  But it’s equally unfair to make a case for cancellation by comparing SGU‘s performance unfavorably to shows that had the benefit of airing in the summer or were less impacted by downloads and DVR usage.”

Darren created GateWorld in 1999, and today is the owner and managing editor. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three children. (More)

COMMENTS (179):Rules | Report Comment | Trackback

  • I do like the way Joe Mallozi pulls not puncheshes.

    I wonder if we will get a reply from the studios, as Joe as just basically called them a bunch of lieers,especially on the issue of Syfy paying for two season upfront. Which Joe said they did not.

  • I’m curious if Craig saw this coming… I doubt he did, but this just hurts the Syfy pr even more. Wow. At least we got conformation from Joe Mallozzi that we aren’t crazy and that, in fact, it is Syfy who is crazy. I also find it interesting that he is the only Stargate producer that is still doing posts for the fans. I would have thought Brad Wright or Robert Cooper would have brought done an interview about it. Brad didn’t even want to tell fans where he intended to take the shows/movies.

  • The “but no one used DVR when SGA aired” thing doesn’t work here because the Syfy guy quoted live + 7 ratings.

  • I can`t help wondering… If i got this rigth, doesn`t MGM own Stargate? And do they not care if the planned storyline of the movies/series are told to the public? In that case, all hope for more stargate is now gone forever.

  • @Jedi_Master

    You have also got to remember the erosion in conventional TV viewership overall. Less people are watching less live or even DVR’d content; especially SciFi fans. More of us have gone to getting it on iTunes. I personally have not lived in the US for over three years (Japan) but that is where I get mine. I could just torrent it but I prefer to support the show so I purchased the season pass. I am what you would call a cable cutter but I spend more on television content then most people that do have cable. This is quite common.

    The reason I make this point is both SyFy and MGM are making a HUGE mistake by not using both the number of people getting the show online, and even include torrent downloaders because many of them live in countries where they cannot legally get the show. (I have a US credit card).

    Also they should better use new media such as Twitter. Go to Twitter right now, and search SGU. You will have a hard time finding anyone happy to see the show gone.

    Alas, we are in a transitional point for delivering content, and killing the old ad model, but its a big business run by men and women that are afraid of change, but change will come but too late for SGU and the other Stargate movies :(

  • @wraithkelso

    Yeah JM will probably get some crap for responding to some of the unfair BS points, but I respect him for doing so.

  • So again someone is only blaming outside influences for SGU’s demise. He is not even considering, that SGU itself may not have been perfect. That some people simply didn’t watch it, because they didn’t like it.

    It is quite simple. Brad Wright was wrong, when he said this:

    “…fortunately there are enough viewers and reviewers who think ‘SGU’ is neither boring, poorly plotted, or sexist to keep us on the air long after ‘V’ is just a letter in the alphabet again.”

    There weren’t “enough viewers”, who thought that SGU was worth watching.

    The ratings went down dramatically in the UK and Germany, too. It is not like SGU was only unsuccessful on Syfy.

  • downloads stay everywhere the same cause people who dont have the channel and so on will always download series cause they dont care to wait years when they got to see it on there tv channels and tbh there is no quarente that they get to see these tv shows on there tv channels to
    they really need to find new ways to show people scifi genre and dont tepend only whats coing on in us
    SYFY channel does not have the audiance to have great raitings for any show and that is a fact if you all look the raitins everyshow on syfy expect wresling what looks like have the best raitings in there

  • It’s true season 1 and even a couple in the beginning of season 2 were not the best moments in SciFi. No where near the worst, but not the best. Sometime it takes a show a season or two to get into the groove.

    Use Fringe as an example. Season 1 was ok, very x-files clone, but season two get MUCH better in the latter half, and then this past season 3 was just some of the greatest SciFi ever! See Fox learned their lesson from the whole Firefly debacle. So they let the show grow, and now it’s one of the best SciFi shows ever.

    SGU would have been the same way, season 3+ would have been EPIC, if they just gave it a chance. Just like how the viewers of Fringe dropped they all plus more came back during season 3. The same thing would (might) have occurred with SGU. Go back and re-watch season 1-2 of SG-1 :P

  • Yeah, but the US population has also dramatically increased. In 1988 it was 244,498,982, and in 2011, it is 311,363,364. Taking the number of TV owners and the change into consideration in 1988, 241,809,498 owned TV’s, and in 2011 301,088,372 own TV’s. With a difference of 59,278,874 TV’s. Not all of these TV’s have cable therefore access the the SyFy channel. Also, American housewives are not the typical demographic for Stargate.

    Thanks for the link though. Tom Merritt was talking about the drop of TV owners is his podcast Frame Rate. It’s attributed to new college kids and younger people just using computers to watch TV content.

  • I like season 1 and 2 of SG1. They are much more entertaining than SGU. And they obviously were also more successful. Otherwise season 3-10 and the two SG1 movies wouldn’t exist.

  • I still say it’s unfair, 2 full seasons is plenty of time to give a brand new show its footing, they should of decided after the end of season 2 whether or not to cancel.. Technically they gave SG:U 1.5 seasons, thats no where near enough IMHO

  • Men, teens and children are also watching more TV now! And look just at the last few years. There is a quite steady rise since 2003. People aren’t abandoning their TVs like Mallozzi said.

    And by the way a bigger population means more potential viewers. So if there were more people living in the USA during SGU’s airing than in the years before, it should have been easier for SGU to get more viewers than SGA/SG1.

  • Thanks for telling it as it is, Joe, and not making up excuses like Syfy.

  • As much as I hate SyFy right now – and not just for cancelling some damn good shows but that certainly is a factor – lets not forget the real menace that cause SGU’s downfall; the infamous and outdated Nelsen’s Ratings!

    In this day and age of recorded tv shows, time delayed viewing and interenet sharing – no matter how illegal – these ratings don’t matter and its STUPID.

    We can attack SyFy all we like but we’re never going to see any progress until the Nelsen Rating system is overhauled for the modern age or done away with completely.

    And its funny really. The Nelsen Ratings, from what I understand are there for one simple thing, and its not to judge the viability of a tv show, its so investors can get their comercials and s**t on tv and sell their products, and they fail to notice that, ironically the overload of comercials we are subjected to are the reason people turn to recording, time delayed and downloading, so they dont HAVE to sit through all that shit that takes more time to get through than the show!

    So again, we can blame and hate SyFy as much as we want – and I encourage that – but we’re not going to get anywhere until we start attacking the real source of the problem.

    Nelsen Ratings

  • *sigh*

    As much as I respect Joe M, he is making excuses. The show had the viewers in the beginning, people gave it a shot, they dropped the show. It basically implies that Syfy did their job promoting the show since it debuted with very good numbers. It is up to the show to keep those viewers.

  • Just when genre shows started to get funded better and the technology cheaper, along come cable companies and the DVR. While scratching my head at how ‘free television’ costs me $120/mo, the last thing I want to do is give anyone the satisfaction of actually ‘watching’ a commercial, which was supposed to be the activity that paid for the free TV … and my trusty DVR lets me do just that.

    Except advertisers are bailing, so scripted TV is dying, and we now have Snookie (which, while I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar, I’m pretty sure is one of the signs of the apocalypse).

    So that leaves my Kindle and books, which is fine, I haven’t been reading as much as I used to.

    Now, if I ever see an advertisement for Tide disguised as a fake fictional short story in a copy of Analog on my Kindle, you can bet I’ll be looking for someone to start killing trees again and pressing ink in them.

  • @Jedi_Master_Bra’tac First thing,nowdays even +7 doesn’t mean much and second,you forget downloading that he JM mentioned.

    In the end SyFy’s been caught with their pants down once again,but that’s just another trivial thing among many..after all SyFy has become just a trivial phenomenon by now.And that ultimately is a sad part,sad thing.
    The fact is that SF fans don’t have a tv channel oriented and focused on them and content they like anymore.
    And it IS every channel’s legitimate right to do what they think is best for their business,regardless of their decision being right,or completely wrong.But still a decent thing,and we’re talking about the most basic human decency,would be to at least be honest of your intentions,especially toward people who’ve had been your biggest,most loyal fans from the very start and through the entire run in good times and bad,supporting you,bringing you the numbers necessary for you to become interesting enough to a larger number of and more important sponsors,firms,businesses,brands..interested in marketing through your channel.
    If you’ve calculated that it’d be more profitable for you to break away and even go pretty far to set yourself apart from SF, IS your right,but it’s NOT a right thing to do,a decent thing to do to lie and try to play your original and true fans,who basically made you,put you in a place where you CAN even begin to contemplate such options,many of them quite dubiouse and dishonest,by as I said playing those same fans,trying to sell them on a lie in order to keep them on board,while attempting to bring new,potentially larger audience at the same time!
    How? By wrapping something else in a vaguely SF paper,making a form and real substance completely different!
    That is completely legal and to a degree legitimate,but quite simply morally wrong and definitely unfair,not a bona fide move as well as hurtful to mentioned fans.

    But all those other facts being so arrogantly lied to,having those lies additionally pushed in their faces,hurt,betrayed,insulted,made fools out of,etc,etc…all that aside,ultimatelly I go back to what I said first..this is just plain and simple a sad moment in time for any fan of a genre-sci-fi/fantasy,because we’ve lost one constant,one “shelter” so to say,where we had everything we hold so dear all in one place.Place that regardless of a bitter end and an ugly break up,gave all of us so much “magic”,fantasy,action,adventure,amazing,fantastic,original concepts and all around so much pleasure in the “good old days”! So R.I.P. SciFi Channel!

    It will be hard to fill your shoes,but in the words of the great maker himself JMS…Faith Manages!

  • @Lee_Machine I registered simply to put forth my utter disbelief that you actually would suggest a major television network use the number of ILLEGAL torrent downloads as a ratings indicator. They make absolutely no matter from torrent downloads. Also, more people are watching television live today than they did 5, 10, 20 years ago. As well, the numbers quoted by Craig Englar were Live + 7. I can only see one point you made as valid, but iTunes sales in the world of television make so little difference that it probably wasn’t worth mentioning them. I loved SGU. Upon hearing the news of its cancellation, I was devastated. So many years of my life devoted to the Stargate franchise; I wished it would never end. Alas, this isn’t “real” TV. It’s science fiction. We all knew deep down in our hearts it would end like this. The change in direction, the BSG-meets-Voyager allegations, the fact that there were only 3 enemies over the course of 2 seasons. It’s doesn’t make for exciting television unless you’re already a die-hard fan. Unfortunately, most of those so-called fans had made their minds up about the third series long before it had premiered. Those same fans are now weeping over its demise. I think Cinderella (the band, not the fairy tale character) said it best…

  • @psw Yeah people maybe watching more tv nowdays,but you forget one “small” fact that was Joe’s point in the first place and that you definitely should be aware of if you live in the US…they watch tv on their own terms,in their own time of their choosing.
    They most definitely sit less live in front of their tv sets waiting for their favorite tv show to begin.
    I mean that kind of behaviour started dying out with VHS 30 years ago and by now it’s almost non-existant.
    Joe is absolutely right,the media world is rapidly changing and has already changed A LOT! That is a process that’s here and it’s unavoidable,whether you want to admit it to yourself,or not and all TV networks,broadcasters will absolutely have to adapt to it.Those who do it sooner will be better off,it’s the most basic logic regarding every change.

    AS I said SGU is just a symptom of a more serious disease.
    Some networks are adapting to the change faster than others,it is always like that and it depends on many factors on those networks.But SyFy that should be leading,be in front,an avangarde in it,instead completely went backwards..that’s the problem,Joe is really only stating the obvious.
    Such an obvious thing that I honestly find it incredibly hard to believe there are still people out there that do not see that!

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