Sci Fi Cancellation Watch: Dark Matter and Defiance Start Low, is it Panic Time for Syfy? A&E’s The Returned Gets Cancelled

By | June 16, 2015

Unless otherwise noted, the ratings numbers below are based on the final overnights and may vary slightly from the preliminaries reported on the Cancelled Sci Fi Twitter Site.

Dark-Matter_SyfySyfy may be attempting a return to heavier science fiction oriented programming (as opposed to the “sci fi lite” entries it has become known for of late), but it appears that the audience the network once turned its back on is reluctant to follow the change in direction.  The new “Syfy Friday” block got off to a poor start this past weekend as Defiance managed to pull only a 0.2 rating based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic with 1.1 million total viewers for its third season debut and new entry Dark Matter had only a 0.3 rating with 1.3 million total viewers for its series premiere.  To put the Defiance numbers in perspective, that show averaged a 0.8 rating in the 18-49 demo in its first season and a 0.5 score during its second year.  But its third season debut pulled only 40% of last Summer’s mean, getting it off to a very poor start.  For Dark Matter, Syfy’s highly anticipated return to space opera, the numbers were only slightly better at a 0.3 rating, but shows typically trend downward after their premiere.  It’s true that Syfy’s 12 Monkeys got a second season renewal after only averaging a 0.2 rating for its first year, but Dark Matter and Defiance are certainly much more expensive and I have a hard time believing Syfy will keep these on the air at these levels.

To put those Friday premiere numbers in more perspective, the 5 PM movie on Syfy scored better than either Dark Matter or Defiance with a 0.4 rating.  Also ahead of those two shows among Friday cable entries were repeats of The Big Bang Theory, Friends, Spongebob, Modern Family, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  Heck, the Family Guy repeats running on Adult Swim in the evening pulled a 0.8 rating, four times Defiance‘s number and more than double what Dark Matter had.  Based on that, would Syfy consider it better for business just to run repeats along their Ghost Hunters type shows (which tend to pull better ratings than their scripted offerings) and maybe up the number of Sharknado movies it runs per year?  The fact is that the genre audience is just not buying into Syfy’s alleged return to science fiction which could lead the network to think twice about all the projects it has in the pipeline and possibly consider another course change for its programming.  I will be looking at this in more detail in an upcoming post, but for now know that original, scripted science fiction is not doing well on Syfy. (And you can join in on the discussion at this link).

In other news, A&E announced yesterday the cancellation of first year supernatural series The Returned.  That comes as no surprise, though, as the show pulled tepid numbers at best during its Spring run.  It may have suffered from over-saturation because the original–and highly acclaimed–French series it was based on, Les Revenants, already ran on the Sundance channel with subtitles, and the ABC adaptation (Resurrection) faded after two seasons.  There were talks that Netflix might be interested in backing The Returned for a second season, but nothing panned out from that.  And the show apparently did not have enough in the way of international financing to make it worthwhile for A&E to keep it on the air for a second year.  I don’t expect too much in the way of an outcry over this cancellation, though.

Ratings results for the sci fi / fantasy shows airing Monday June 8th thru Sunday June 14th (metric definitions below):

(Updated for Top 25 chart activity for cable and broadcast net shows)

The Whispers ABC Mon 6/8 10 PM
Rating: 1.0 | % Chng PW: -33.3% | Tot Viewers (MM): 4.2 | StD Rating: 1.3 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

This one took a big drop with its second episode which is not a good thing.  More on that at this link.

Chart Activity: As expected, this one dropped out of the Top 25 with its second episodes and based on the its continued downward trend it will likely not be returning.

iZombie CW Tue 6/9 9 PM
Rating: 0.5 | % Chng PW: -16.7% | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.5 | StD Rating: 0.6 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

It slipped to a series low for its season finale but should rebound when it returns in Fall and gets The Flash back as its lead-in.

Stitchers ABCF Tue 6/9 9 PM
Rating: 0.4 | % Chng PW: -20.0% | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.0 | StD Rating: 0.0 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

This show slipped one tick from its premiere and its prospects continue to look iffy as it fails to take advantage of its lead-in from ABC Family’s hit series Pretty Little Liars.

Beauty and the Beast CW Thu 6/11 8 PM
Rating: 0.3 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.9 | StD Rating: 0.0 | Cancellation Alert: No Guess

This show returns where it ended, with a 0.3 rating in the 18-49 demo.  It has already been renewed for a fourth season, so do these numbers really matter?

Wayward Pines FOX Thu 6/11 9 PM
Rating: 1.2 | % Chng PW: +9.1% | Tot Viewers (MM): 4.2 | StD Rating: 1.1 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

This one improved one tick from last week and its prospects are looking better.  Another week at this level and I may move it to a Low Cancellation Alert status.

Chart Activity: As expected, it returned the broadcast network Top 25 based on the ratings in the 18-49 demo at the Number 19 slot.

Hannibal NBC Thu 6/11 10 PM
Rating: 0.5 | % Chng PW: -28.6% | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.7 | StD Rating: 0.0 | Cancellation Alert: No Guess

This series debuted at a series low and then dropped further in its second week.  It’s just a matter of whether its international financing is enough to make it worthwhile for NBC to keep it on the air.

Olympus Syfy Thu 6/11 11 PM
Rating: 0.1 | % Chng PW: 0.0% | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.4 | StD Rating: 0.2 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

Another week at a 0.1 rating as Syfy’s slump continues across all of its shows.  Is this a cheap enough entry to justify bringing back?

Defiance Syfy Fri 6/12 8 PM
Rating: 0.2 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.1 | StD Rating: 0.2 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

With its third season debut rating at only 40% of its second season average, I have to start this at a Moderate Cancellation Alert level and that could go up fast.  More on this one above.

The Messengers CW Fri 6/12 9 PM
Rating: 0.2 | % Chng PW: 0.0% | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.8 | StD Rating: 0.2 | Cancellation Alert: Cancelled

This one continues to hold at a 0.2 score as it burns off the last of its episodes.

Dark Matter Syfy Fri 6/12 10 PM
Rating: 0.3 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.3 | StD Rating: 0.3 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

I can’t see that a 0.3 rating will be sufficient to sustain an sfx-heavy show like this.  It starts at a Moderate Cancellation Alert level and could go up quickly.  More on this one above.

Orphan Black BBCA Sat 6/13 9 PM
Rating: 0.1 | % Chng PW: -50.0% | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.5 | StD Rating: 0.2 | Cancellation Alert: Renewed

It slipped for the week, but has already been renewed for a fourth season.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell BBCA Sat 6/13 10 PM
Rating: 0.1 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.3 | StD Rating: 0.1 | Cancellation Alert: Mini-Series

This mini-series debuted low, but good enough for its run on BBC America.

Game of Thrones HBO Sun 6/14 9 PM
Rating: 4.1 | % Chng PW: +10.8% | Tot Viewers (MM): 8.1 | StD Rating: 3.5 | Cancellation Alert: Renewed

This show had its most controversial season yet, but that sure didn’t hurt its numbers as it ended its fifth year at a series high.  It returns next Spring for its sixth season.

Chart Activity: It returned to the Number 1 spot on the Nielsen Twitter Rankings for its season final, up from Number 3 last week.  And it held at Number 1 in the cable Top 25 based on total viewers for the second week in a row.

Golan the Insatiable FOX Sun 6/14 9:30 PM
Rating: 0.6 | % Chng PW: +50.0% | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.4 | StD Rating: 0.5 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

It improved slightly, but was still behind repeats of The Simpsons and Family Guy.  Is it worth it to FOX to keep it on the air or does it get shifted to FXX before it wraps up its first season?

Penny Dreadful SHOW Sun 6/14 10 PM
Rating: 0.2 | % Chng PW: 0.0% | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.6 | StD Rating: 0.2 | Cancellation Alert: Renewed

It held steady and is still waiting for word on a third season. Update: renewal has been announced.

Salem WGN Sun 6/14 10 PM
Rating: 0.1 | % Chng PW: 0.0% | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.3 | StD Rating: 0.1 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

This show remains low but international financing could keep it alive.

Be sure keep an eye out for the latest numbers and any breaking news throughout the week at the Cancelled Sci Fi Twitter Site.  You can see the status of all the currently airing sci fi / fantasy shows at the Cancellation Watch page and also the latest Sci Fi TV Power Rankings post. And for more information on where I get these numbers and how I make my Cancellation Alert assessments, check out the Cancelled Sci Fi FAQ.

Metric Definitions:

Rating: Overnight rating in the 18-49 demographic for same day viewing based on the final numbers unless otherwise noted

% Chng PW: The percentage change +/- for this week’s rating vs. last week’s rating.

Tot Viewers: Estimated total viewers (age 2+) to tune in to the episode for same day viewing.

StD Rating: Season to date average for the rating metric tracked above.

Cancellation Alert: My prediction of the likelihood that a show will get cancelled. From least to most likely the statuses are Low, Moderate, Medium, Elevated, and High.

Ratings Source: TV by the Numbers and ShowBuzzDaily

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2014 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “Sci Fi Cancellation Watch: Dark Matter and Defiance Start Low, is it Panic Time for Syfy? A&E’s The Returned Gets Cancelled

  1. Patricia H

    I have watched all of the new, non-zombie, non-vampire SciFi shows and most share the same problem: No characters that are interesting. To draw and hold an audience, any show needs characters that viewers can like or identity with in some measure. If you don’t find characters that you can care about, you won’t watch the show. It’s that simple. That said, of the new shows so far, all but Dark Matter have fallen flat on their faces. I really liked that premiere and will watch the series. It’s full of very interesting characters with very interesting things to explore. I’m holding out hope for Killjoys. We’ll know soon.
    Sorry Defiance came back with low numbers. It’s a fascinating show.

  2. Brenda Kay

    I didn’t miss an episode of “Helix”, “The Returned”, “Dig”, “12 Monkeys”, “Resurrection”, “Intruders” and “Ascension”, and each one of these shows were sorely disappointing and at points downright stupid and boring. All of these shows had absolutely great premises from which to tell interesting and fantastic stories – immortals, time travel, people returning from the dead, space travel that really wasn’t, trying to bring about the biblical end times – and sadly each of these series ultimately lost viewers due to ridiculous side stories, uninteresting characters, really dumb plot twists and most annoyingly, no resolution to pressing questions. Fans never did find out how certain people became immortal on “Helix”, nor was there any explanation for why the dead were returning on “Resurrection” and “The Returned”; “Intruders” wasted the first seven episodes of its eight episode series dragging out the confusing storyline, and then tried to cram everything into the last episode leaving a wealth of questions that will never be answered; “Ascension” rapidly became a cheesy farce that was written off as a limited series, and “Dig” was just downright awful, save for a red cow and a young Orthodox Jewish character.

    So it is really not surprising that viewers are no longer willing to invest in science fiction or fantasy television series when the odds are really quite high that the writers will not only insult them with lame, predictable story lines, but will never bother with explaining anything!

    I started watching “The Whispers”, but already the storyline is being dragged out so that season (or series) finale can end with a predictable and tiresome cliff hanger. And given Syfy channel’s habit of killing off series that are suddenly too expensive to produce, I’m not getting invested in “Dark Matter”, even though the first episode was really engaging.

    The single biggest problem that network television science fiction and fantasy writers appear to have is, an inability to tell a story with a clearly defined beginning, middle and end, all told in one season with enough of an established story that if the series is picked up for a second season, the writers can build on what has already been told.


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