Carole Segal/sCI FI Channel Photo
SO SAY WE ALL: The Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S. renewed Battlestar Galactica last week for a fourth season, despite what a Los Angeles Times story called stagnating ratings. Moved to a Sunday time slot midway through this season, the show has been stuck at an average of 1.7 million viewers, 1.1 million of them in the desirable 18 to 49 age demographic.
On a subscription cable network like HBO or Showtime, the Times piece pointed out, these wouldn’t be dismal numbers, especially with the sort of critical acclaim that Galactica has garnered, but on an advertising-supported channel like Sci-Fi, they’re not great news. On a major network, they’d be grounds for cancellation; Fox has cancelled shows before they’ve even aired just because a production assistant dreamed about such numbers.
“Battlestar is a cachet show. It gives us a lot of credibility with the creative community," said Mark Stern, head of programming for Sci-Fi. "It's the kind of series we want to continue producing in the future."
The show sells very well on DVD – over a million box sets have been sold so far – and Stern also pointed out that an extra half-million plus viewers in the 18 to 49 demographic watch the show after it airs on PVRs, which brings the magic marketing number for the show closer to 1.6 million viewers in the key age group. Time-shifting, while becoming more quantifiable, still isn’t factored into the rates networks can charge advertisers for commercial time on a show, since it’s assumed that most viewers fast-forward through ads on recorded shows. Stern, however, is optimistic that thing are changing.
“Who knows? This upfront season you might find that we can monetize that DVR usage," he told the Times. "The important thing is when you add in the DVR numbers, the audience is there.” Yup – they’re there, one hand gripping the remote, the other hand rummaging around for that last chili-lime taco chip, wondering why they still find Starbuck better looking than the skinny Cylon chick, and trying to think of a good joke about people who upgrade to Vista before the first service pack gets shipped.
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