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.”
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.”