The New Sci-Fi Mondays: Why Sanctuary’s move may not be so bad

Samm April 25, 2011 6 Comments »

The SyFy channel recently announced that it was moving its popular original series Sanctuary from its Friday night slot to Monday nights. Fans were immediately in an uproar, threatening to boycott the network for what they saw as a “death move.” Sanctuary fans are already leery of the channel since granting the series a season four renewal for a tiny twelve episodes and many cross-over Stargate fans are dubious given what they consider the unjust cancellation of Stargate: Universe. On the other side of the fence there are those that are praising the execs over at SyFy for their wisdom and continued support of the sci-fi community without examining the reasoning behind the move.

I’m not going to berate or boycott the SyFy Channel for their decision to move Sanctuary nor am I going to add to the already nauseating ass kissing. Instead, I’d like to take the logical approach and hopefully fans will agree. Why would SyFy want to move the last remaining science fiction show from their infamous Sci-Fi Friday spot? A look at the Friday night ratings may just give us the answer.

Sanctuary has held pretty steady in their ratings despite previous switches, averaging about 1.36 million viewers and holding steady at 0.4 adult viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. If we take a look at the ratings for WWE: Smackdown, which airs right before Sanctuary on Friday nights, their average rating is about 2.8 million viewers  with an average of 0.8 adult viewers between the ages of 18 and 49.  For those of you into math, that’s a difference of 1.44 million viewers between shows. Which means that approximately 1.44 million viewers turn off their televisions when Sanctuary comes on.

Ratings can be a scary thing, ask any SGU fan. Regardless of the archaic Nielsen system that every network exec and even Nielsen themselves admits is faulty if not broken, it’s the only thing we have. I will say this, networks need to take into account the viewers who go online to either the network sites, Hulu or iTunes to watch the episodes and factor them into the Nielsen numbers. A vast majority of people will record their favorite shows on the DVR and watch them at a more convenient time, or they’ll go online and watch the episodes on the network’s site, or download them from iTunes. Those numbers are rarely, if ever, calculated into the final ratings result. The Nielsen system doesn’t account for them and often times, neither do the networks. While fans and even execs like to point fingers at illegal downloading when it comes to low ratings, the fact is that statistically speaking illegal downloading really isn’t prevalent enough to affect a show’s ratings. It would be like a cat pinning an elephant to the ground. I state this point, of course, not to justify illegal downloading but rather to point out the reality of its impact.

So why move a show with steady ratings from its favored Friday night spot to Monday nights where it will, at least for now, have to compete with such ratings giants as ABC’s Castle? The answer is simple, clearly the Smackdown fans aren’t tuning in to watch Sanctuary and many SGU fans do. With SGU‘s final three episodes airing shortly, SyFy is going to need an already established original series to fill in that time slot.

Given that Sanctuary was the only sci-fi series running on Sci-Fi Fridays, it doesn’t make much sense to keep the show on at that time. If the SyFy Channel were going to bump Smackdown to another night (which would never happen due to the high ratings) and add more of their original sci-fi programming to Friday nights it would make sense to keep up with the long running Sci-Fi Fridays. However, the ratings for Smackdown are double that of Sanctuary so the decision to  move the show became an easy one.

One advantage to the Monday night move regards the strange way SyFy structures their seasons. Many of SyFy’s popular shows air both during the summer and during what would be considered “down time” on the major networks, while avoiding events like the annual January sweeps. With top competitors like Castle going on hiatus soon, Nathan Fillion fans may find themselves filling the void by tuning in to Sanctuary. It’s a bold and risky strategy on SyFy’s part, but one that has worked for them in the past with shows like Warehouse 13 and Eureka.

“Sci-Fi Mondays” might not have the same ring to it as “Sci-Fi Fridays” but it’s an adjustment that hopefully fans will embrace. According to tvbythenumbers.com, SyFy already regularly fails to make the list of Top 25 Cable Shows. For example, for the week ending April 17, 2011, the number one and two spots went to The History Channel’s Pawn Stars which aired two new episodes that week. There were, once again, no SyFy shows on the list, including Smackdown. The WWE’s sister show airing on the USA network, however, garnered 5th and 6th place spots.

It’s understandable that SyFy would want to keep what is sure to be a great deal of ad revenue that’s coming in from WWE: Smackdown on Friday nights. What would make even more sense was if they were to air something after it that would also pull in the high ratings. Taking Sanctuary‘s coveted post Smackdown spot is Urban Legends, which I am surprised to hear is in its third season. This under advertised and mysterious three season show is perhaps benign enough to keep Smackdown fans tuned in. Sanctuary may have just been too sci-fi for them. The concept of Urban Legends, which very closely mirrors the old Jonathan Frakes’ show Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction,  likely speaks to a broader demographic and is therefore a logical chaser to the pageantry of Smackdown. In the long run, more ad revenue means more money and more money means more original programming for science fiction fans.

So never fear loyal Sanctuary fans. While this may mean the end of our beloved Sci-Fi Fridays, the moving of Sanctuary to Monday nights does not mean a death sentence for the show. On the contrary, with SyFy’s strange season schedule contrasting with the regular schedule of the major networks, we may just see more people tuning in.

Sanctuary airs Monday nights at 10/9 c. on SyFy.

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. GreenEggsNSammNo Gravatar May 17, 2011 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Thanks! That’s a great idea. It’s great to be able to catch up on your favorite shows on the train or during your lunch hour. Thanks for the info on DISH Network’s TV Everywhere Technology. It’s worth looking into for people on the go. =)

  2. AnderwNo Gravatar May 17, 2011 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Woops hit submit too soon. I also wanted to say I know I could be a bit biased being an employee of DISH but it really is an awesome service that is well worth a few minutes of your time to check out.

    That was a really well thought out article and I enjoyed that you actually included some of the stats.

  3. AnderwNo Gravatar May 17, 2011 at 10:28 am - Reply

    I didn’t even notice the time slot change. I always end up recording virtually every show I care about. I’m currently catching up with Sanctuary by watching it on my lunch breaks using DISH Network’s TV everywhere technology. It’s pretty cool to be able to stream any and all of my programming anywhere I go to my iPad. I definitely recommend it to anyone who travels or is constantly on the move.

  4. KesNo Gravatar April 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    I didnt know about Urban Ledgends either. Was also surprise to read here that its on its 3rd season. I’m guessing rating werent always this bad.
    Hoping for the best.

  5. KesNo Gravatar April 25, 2011 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    I dont see it as the death slot, I see it as a difficult day for a somewhat fragile show. Also you mention WH13 and Eureka but those are summer shows. At best mention Being Human that seemed to do ok.
    What I dont like and I assume most fans dont like is the way Syfy moved Sanctuary.
    1st off it was on their website before they even issued a press release. Did they even do that at all? It tooke them 2 days to say anything. 2nd why move a show 2 eps after coming back from the mid season break? Why didnt they start it on Monday with more publicity?
    3rd As much as they praise the new Monday line up, truth is they needed a spot for Urban Ledgends and moved Sanctuary to give it one. Just like they did when they needed a spot for Caprica ( that turned out for the bes since Tuesdays is a really difficult day). But why not just kill Urban Ledgends if its doing so bad?

    SGU is doing vey bad and I assume the ppl that watch SGU also already watch Sanctuary so I doubt their gaining any viewers from a dead show.
    But good post, thanks for the possitive spin. Here’s hoping for the best.

    • GreenEggsNSammNo Gravatar April 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      Thank you very much for your comment! It’s always great to get feedback. You make several very good points. I have no idea why it took two days to make the announcement. Maybe they wanted to speak to the cast and crew first instead of announcing it via Twitter like they did the cancellation of SGU? But then why release it on the website first? I’m with you (and I’m sure many fans) and don’t understand why they didn’t just come back from the mid-season break on Mondays. It doesn’t make much sense to switch it two episodes in. Could it be possible that execs are hoping a little fear of cancellation or drama will drum up the fandom?

      I referenced Warehouse 13 and Eureka because they are summer shows and they do well in their time slots, which may be partially to do with them airing when major networks are generally on hiatus. Perhaps if some of Sanctuary leaks over into the summer months it will see an increase in viewers? It’s also not so much that SyFy would gain viewers from SGU, but that they’ll continue to see viewership on Monday nights after the last SGU episode airs. Otherwise, it’s possible their Monday night ratings would plummet even further in SGU’s absence now that Being Human is done until 2012. It seems like an effort to keep their Monday night programming on the radar.

      I should also reference that Being Human did incredibly well in the ratings on Monday nights, often exceeding the ratings of SGU. Perhaps Being Human fans will tune in to Sanctuary while they wait for new episodes to air. It’s worth a shot.

      I admittedly don’t know much about Urban Legends and, until recently, have never even heard of it. I was surprised to learn that it was in its third season. Where has it been all this time? It doesn’t surprise me that its ratings are low and that Syfy would need a home for it. But it’s probably not as sci-fi as Sanctuary so maybe the Smackdown fans will give it a shot? It’s also not an episodic show. Each episode stands alone and it, therefore, may be easier to win over the Smackdown fans. It’s just a theory.

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