Alan Smithee

SyFy Explains the Stargate: Universe Cancellation

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There’s an open letter from Craig Engler (senior VP and general manager of SyFy) floating around the Internet in the hopes that fans everywhere will quit blaming the network for cancelling the show. Will it work?

In the letter, which you can read the entirety of below, there are numerous allegations and concerns that the fans have tossed at SyFy and Mr. Engler does his best to answer some of them.

An Open Letter to Stargate Fans From Syfy

There’s been a lot written about Stargate Universe and Syfy in the weeks leading up to SGU‘s recent finale, and a lot of questions and concerns directed at Syfy about how we handled the series. I wanted to take some time to address the issues that have come up and thought GateWorld, which has been a huge supporter of the entire Stargate franchise, would be a good place to do it. So thanks to them for giving me the space here, and thanks to you for taking the time to read this.

When MGM decided to bring Stargate Atlantis to an end after five seasons, they did so knowing they’d transition to a new show in the franchise, Stargate Universe. SGU was a bold new take on Stargate that Brad Wright and Robert Cooper had had in mind for a long time, and one that we’d discussed with them off and on. It first came to us as a pitch many years ago.

Because Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis had performed so well for us in the past, we felt confident about SGU and committed to a two-season deal for it, as long as the show met certain milestones along the way. Two-season deals are rare in the TV world because they tie up a huge amount of investment (both time and money), but our great track record with MGM and Stargate made this seem like as much of a sure thing as you’ll get in the TV business. That means before any footage was shot or any actors were hired, we knew there’d be 40 episodes.

The show quickly moved forward and officially launched on October 2, 2009. The debut was watched by a good if not spectacular 2,779,000 viewers. To give that some perspective, Stargate Atlantis debuted with over 4 million viewers, so SGU was more than 25% below that. On the plus side, SGU actually grew in week 2 to just about 3 million viewers before falling into the 2.6 million range where it seemed like it was going to settle. That’s a fairly typical pattern for a new series, and at this point the show was doing okay.

In week six viewers dropped to 2.3 million, or 20% off the season high. It’s not unusual for a show to fluctuate a bit, so as long as it bounced back this wouldn’t be too much of a concern. There was indeed a bit of a recovery the next week, but that was followed by another small drop. Then viewership took a further dip to 1,961,000, or 33% down from the season high. Obviously there was concern at this point, but we were headed into the hiatus and shows often see a bump after a break (contrary to popular belief).

Coming back from hiatus the show in fact grew modestly to 2,088,000 viewers and then added more viewers the next week, hitting 2,153,000. It looked like we were regaining momentum. Unfortunately things stalled there and for the next two months SGU hovered between 2,116,000 and a low of 1,708,000 viewers, below where we could sustain it. So despite the brief post-hiatus bump, after two episodes it settled in at a lower number and we ended up averaging 1,982,000 viewers for season 1.5.

With untenably low numbers and no sign of growth on Fridays where it had now lost 1/3 of its initial audience, we decided to move SGU for its second season. We’d had tremendous success on Tuesday’s with our breakout hit Warehouse 13, so we paired SGU with Caprica and moved them to Tuesdays, hoping to introduce both shows to a new audience. As you probably know by now the downward trend continued and ultimately we weren’t able to continue either series.

I think that he’s done a damn fine job in putting the fans in their place though we know that even letters from VPs will do nothing to squash the nerd rage that is going on throughout the blogosphere.

For those that can’t let this go, I’d at least like to point out that you got 2 seasons out of the show…Firefly got 13 disjointed episodes on a network that screwed it up from day one.

As for SG:U, I enjoyed a few episodes myself, but there were more than enough episodes that I didn’t like and let’s not even mention that I didn’t actually begin watching until the second season…cause I’m sure that didn’t help either.

Oh well, it’s commercial cable television, get your grief out and then get on with your life and be happy you got what you did.

You can read the rest of the letter over at Gateworld who has much more from the VP, including fan questions and allegations.

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