The Syfy supernatural series Haven wrapped up its fourth season in December and now has to play the waiting game to see if it will get renewed for a fifth year. But the fact is that its prospects do not look too good at this point based on its ratings results from the past few months. The show averaged a 0.4 rating in the 18-49 demographic based on the overnight results this past season which is a very marginal number for an original scripted drama airing on that network and I have yet to see Syfy renew a show with ratings that low. Last year, Alphas averaged a 0.4 rating for its second season and it got axed. Two years ago, Sanctuary got cancelled after its fourth season even though it averaged a 0.5 score. And most recently, Warehouse 13–once a flagship series for the network–received a truncated final season order of only six episode after it averaged a 0.5 for its fourth season. So it seems at best that Haven can hope for that final shortened season order, but there’s a good chance it may not even get that. Some may point out that the shows Lost Girl and Continuum have had consistently lower numbers than all those mentioned above and yet received renewals. However, those series originate from the Canadian Showcase channel which bears the brunt of the financial responsibility and their performance up north more heavily influences whether they get renewed. Haven is also produced in Canada, but Syfy pays the bills for that one, so they need to see sufficient ratings from its first run episodes to cover the costs for the show.
So what are Haven fans to do as they wait anxiously to hear the network’s decision on whether the show will come back? Is a “Save My Show” campaign the next step? Do those really work?
The fact is that very rarely do such campaign’s keep a series going, but I still believe that the fans can band together and possibly influence the network’s decision on whether to bring back Haven for another season.
Over the past few years, there have been several fan campaigns to keep shows alive that have drawn quite a bit of attention. The Jericho “Nuts” campaign convinced CBS to bring that show back for a shortened second season (after which they cancelled it yet again). And the fans of both The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Legend of the Seeker raised large amounts of money for publicity campaigns to convince other networks to pick up their shows. Neither of those succeeded, though, and to pour salt in the wounds of the fans of the former show, a new Terminator TV series is in the works that will completely ignore The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Personally, I think it’s throwing money into the wind to fund campaigns like these that rarely work or at best only bring back a show for a short time (though maybe that six episode final season will be acceptable to Haven fans). As a better option, I say reach out directly to the network and ask what it will take to keep the show alive with the presumption that fans will be willing to pre-fund the next season with commitments to purchase episode downloads, DVD sets, etc. Maybe a Kickstarter type campaign where fans can pre-pay for episode downloads at around two to three dollars each. A commitment like that appeals directly to the bottom dollar, and let’s face it, that’s the crucial driving force for the networks. At the end of the day, these television channels are businesses and a business has to be profitable to survive. If one of its products is losing money, then it has to make the hard decision to cut its loses and move onto to something else that might be more profitable (insert snide comments here about more reality shows and wrestling on the network once known as The Sci Fi Channel). True, us fans do not like to hear our favorite shows referred to insensitively as a “product” and we believe that the art side should trump the business side. But unfortunately, networks who do that have a hard time paying the bills (insert snide comments about the commercialization of art and our society in general). Syfy and other channels have to make money to stay alive, and that is driven mostly by cold, hard business decisions.
But if the fans want to step in and help foot the bill, maybe that can change the process to an extent. I don’t know what the numbers would need to be to keep a series afloat, and that is where the fans need to reach out directly to the network. And not by berating or belittling them for the business decisions they have to make. Nor is it necessary to drag back up the argument that the Nielsen’s are an outdated, unrepresentative system. Few argue that, there is just not a viable alternative yet. But instead, open up a dialog between adults and see what can be worked out. True, a fan commitment of pre-funding could probably not raise enough money to pay for the series completely, but it could be enough to make-up the shortfall on advertising revenue. And if people are going to put money into a campaign to keep a series going, it’s best to put that money directly toward the production of the show rather than wasting it on sending nuts or something along those lines or for starting a publicity campaign that will go mostly ignored.
The closest that I have seen to this type of effort was when the Chuck fans appealed directly to one of the show’s main sponsors Subway and started going to that sandwich chain en masse to show their support. And allegedly that helped keep the series going for a year and a half after the campaign. So there is reason to believe that appealing to the bottom dollar works. And with the ability nowadays to easily pay for an episode download, there is reason to believe that this could become a factor in keeping a series alive and possibly changing the current model that ties a show’s fate so closely to the Nielsen ratings.
So I say that Haven fans should reach out directly to Syfy and open up a dialog with the network and see if setting up a campaign to pre-fund the next season is a viable option. A Kickstarter campaign with Syfy’s blessing would probably be the best option for this. And maybe as a sign of good faith, run a side campaign to buy up prior seasons either as downloads or DVD sets. The series has a strong fanbase as evidenced by the show’s high social network activity. Rallying them should not be hard, but it is best to make sure that whatever effort they put forward does not fall on deaf ears and nor lead to time and money wasted.
The time to act is now, because the network execs are making their decisions and working on the upcoming schedules. And Haven fans could have a say in how that pans out going forward.
The Plight of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television in the Face of the Unforgiving Nielsens and Networks
Ever wondered why your favorite science fiction and/or fantasy show disappeared from the television schedule, never to deliver anymore new episodes? The reason why, most likely, is that it was cancelled because its ratings were low. And this book looks at those many cancelled sci fi/fantasy shows as well as the Neilsen ratings and television networks that dictate their fates. Available now for only $1.99 on Kindle from Amazon.com.