Today brings a hopeful if bittersweet coda to the 2011 cancellation of Stargate Universe: By January Syfy Channel will finally move WWE Smackdown off of its Friday night schedule.
Fans of scripted science fiction have bemoaned the place of wrestling on a network once dedicated to the genre — but to no avail. Smackdown has been Syfy’s biggest ratings draw (and thus a significant cash machine) since moving to the network in 2010. But in the process the show has blocked off two hours of the 3-hour Friday night programming schedule (8 to 10 p.m.), ending the epic scripted line-up once occupied by Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Battlestar Galactica.
That’s only left space for one Friday night drama at 10 p.m., which has included shows like Sanctuary, Continuum, Haven, and now the zombie show Z Nation. Shows moved off of Friday nights — a night of the week that is traditionally genre-friendly — have suffered lower ratings and rapid-onset cancellation, including SGU, Caprica, and Sanctuary.
We cited WWE’s near-monopoly of the Friday night schedule as a significant contributor to the cancellation of Stargate Universe at the end of 2010. (We even penned an open letter to Syfy about the problem in 2011.)
But Syfy today announced that it has set new original drama 12 Monkeys for Friday, January 16 at … wait for it … 9 p.m. / 8 Central.
It will likely air alongside the second season of Helix, which held the Friday 10 p.m. slot last winter.
In May Syfy’s parent company NBC Universal renewed its deal with WWE to continue airing Smackdown, which draws around 2.75 million viewers each week. In late August rumors swirled that Syfy would move the show to Thursdays — but instead the network set up Haven and premium cable acquisition Spartacus on Thursdays for the fall.
Freeing up Friday nights for scripted programming is a significant move for the network, which has been working hard all year to regain credibility with genre fans. Syfy’s new management has let go of old-guard shows like Warehouse 13 and Eureka and greenlit more traditional sci-fi fare, including Ascension (which co-stars BSG‘s Tricia Helfer), 12 Monkeys, The Expanse, and numerous others.
Syfy also recently bought a co-production stake in the upcoming Canadian space drama Killjoys, and ordered the alien invasion drama Hunters to series. Summer series Defiance and Dominion have also been renewed for 2015.