The wait is almost over! Exactly four months after “Justice” left us hanging, Stargate Universe fans are eagerly anticipating the show’s return to Syfy Channel in the U.S. this Friday at 9 p.m. (8 Central). But many want to know: Why was the mid-season break so long?
We asked Stargate fans via Twitter what their ideal length would be for the mid-season break, and got a variety of responses. But we also heard straight from Syfy’s Craig Engler, Senior V.P. of Syfy Digital, who said, “No mid-season break could mean  weeks or more between full seasons. Basically, every schedule choice has a trade-off. … We split seasons so there are not huge gaps between full seasons.”
If the network were to run the entire, 20-episode season without a break, fans would be left with nearly 8 months of no new episodes. But that’s nothing that fans of 24 or LOST aren’t used to — and they keep coming back for more. Because those series are so dependent upon a single story arc spread over a season, major breaks only frustrate viewers (as ABC notoriously learned in the third season of LOST, airing six episodes in the fall and holding the rest for the spring).
Is SGU arc-driven enough to warrant such a plan?
“You’re comparing a broadcast network to a cable network, though,” Engler said. “Scheduling for each is much different.”
It’s definitely not a strategy meant to increase DVD revenue with multiple releases each season, he stressed — since MGM, not Syfy, is the one that sells the show and makes that money.
The challenge for the network is to bring viewers back after a break — and the longer the break, the tougher that is to do. Casual viewers make the ratings, not hardcore fans. So forgetfulness sets in and it’s up to the marketing teams at Syfy and MGM to let people know when the show is back on the air — and to entice those more casual viewers to keep watching.
Syfy’s strategy for most years of Stargate has been the half-season approach: 10 episodes now, 10 episodes later, with approximately the same stretch of time in between. The result is that the mid-season break is about as long as the break in between seasons.
The longest break in Stargate history, as we figure it, was the third season of Stargate Atlantis and the tenth season of Stargate SG-1, which aired at the same time. The first half aired from July to September, 2006, and the second half from April to June of the following year. That made for a 25-week hiatus (six and a half months) between “The Return, Part 1” and “The Return, Part 2,” and between “The Quest, Part 1” and “Part 2.”
How did Stargate fans answer our question? The average response suggested a mid-season break around six to ten weeks, making for a significantly longer gap between the season finale and the next season’s opener.
“Six to ten weeks is ideal to me,” mescutia said. “I prefer mid-season breaks that are significantly shorter than between-season breaks.”
“Two months tops,” Tanith0709 said. “Personally, [I] would have liked for SGU to come back after the Christmas period.”
A few fans, however, suggested that they’d still prefer little or no break at all.
The ideal break would be “six days,” EliteAceman concisely suggested.
For the next 11 weeks (expect an SGU break Memorial Day weekend), though, we have lots of new Stargate Universe to enjoy! Season Two will likely premiere in October. Catch “Space” Friday at 9 p.m. (8 Central) on Syfy.