NBC’s Spin on Stargate Universe Ratings Falls Short

Published 5 years ago by , Updated May 13th, 2013 at 7:37 am,

Stargate Atlantis Cast Photo NBCs Spin on Stargate Universe Ratings Falls Short

All we ever hear from NBC when it pitches Stargate Universe is how it beat Stargate Atlantis in some fashion.  They keep trying to equate Stargate Universe ratings to something spectacular.  Sure, the way they spin it, the numbers are great.  But let’s take a closer look at a few items from both shows.

When Stargate Universe (SGU) premiered on October 2nd of 2009, Syfy announced its excitement about the viewer numbers. The 2-part SGU premiere produced 2.3 million viewers, which for Syfy on a Friday night, were decent numbers.

The show averaged almost 2.9 million viewers through October and  Syfy noted with a press release that 2.9 million viewers was better than the last season of Stargate Atlantis.  Or 36% more viewers.

The First 8 Episodes of SGU

More recently, (January 2010) Syfy was getting even more excited about SGU’s ratings because when they add in the Live+7 DVR ratings, the first 8 episodes of SGU averaged of 2.64 million viewers.

They go on to compare these numbers to the 5th and final season of Stargate Atlantis, purporting that it’s a 26% increase in viewers. They just keep comparing SGU’s online and live numbers to Stargate Atlantis 5th season. WHY?

Wait, it gets better.  Do you think I’d be going on and on if it didn’t?

The First 10 Episodes of SGU

stargate universe july poster 00 NBCs Spin on Stargate Universe Ratings Falls Short

From one of NBC’s latest press releases, “the winter season of Stargate Universe became the most watched Stargate franchise series since 2005 (Stargate Atlantis season 1).”  As if there are a lot of Stargate shows to choose from!

Including Live + 7 DVR viewing data, Stargate Universe’s first year averaged 2.57 million total viewers.  Notice the average dropped from the first 8 episodes?

They go on to compare to SGA, again:  Compared to the 2008-09 Stargate Atlantis season 5, SGU had 22% more total viewers.  This number, is again, down from the first 8 episode stats. They’ve also referenced the first 10 episodes in their press release as “Stargate Universe’s first year.”

I’m getting suspicious.  So now they outright call a half-season of 10 episodes a full season, and declare that it will return for a 2nd season in 2010.

Now that we’re done extolling the virtues of Stargate Universe, comparing it to everything dating back to 2005, I think I want to pitch just one more Stargate Atlantis fact.  One that I dug up on my own, without any help from NBC / Syfy.

The Stargate Atlantis 2004 Numbers

So why doesn’t NBC compare SGU to the 2004 numbers of Stargate Atlantis?

When Stargate Atlantis premiered in 2004, it drew in 4.2 million viewers.  If I were to quote percentages like Syfy likes to do, SGU’s premiere only drew in 56% of the audience that SGA had.  (Did they have DVR numbers in 2004?  Oh… no?). The 4.2 million viewers was the biggest ratings for any of their series’, up to that point.

So What Am I Seeing?

What I’m seeing is how NBC totally torqued the premise of Stargate into a dark mimic of Battlestar Galactica.  They think they’re doing great and they keep telling us just how awesome it is… compared to the last few years of SGA.

Though they went “BSG dark“, their numbers didn’t compare to the BSG mini-series that brought in approximately 3.7 million viewers.  But then they didn’t learn their lesson as the ratings declined consistently from there.  After the mini-series, the Battlestar Galactica series premiere pulled in a Nielsen number of a 2.6, or just under 3 million viewers and on a fairly consistent level, numbers declined from there.  Much like most shows do actually.

So, don’t be fooled by the SGU spin that NBC is pitching at us about how awesome it is performing and what it’s beating.  Sure, it’s doing OK.  But it’s not hitting it out of the park. As I like to think of it:  Most little league parents go totally berserk when their little one nails one… out of the batter’s box.  So too is NBC with their SGU press releases.

Can SGU Be Fixed?

NBC needs to reevaluate their approach to Stargate Universe.  It can be saved, but it needs some serious duct tape to do it.  They’ve set a tone that has caused irreparable harm with the core Stargate audience.  They now need to kiss our a** and make some changes.  That, is what will get their numbers up.

I don’t mind it as it is, but with the depression that is Caprica premiering on January 22nd, Stargate Universe will no longer stand out as the only dark tragedy on Syfy. Maybe now that Comcast has bought into NBC, maybe they’ll step up.

Call me, NBC. I’d be willing to work with you and help make a few changes.  Let’s get Teal’c and Ronon on the Destiny.  That should straighten out Dr. Rush!  Let’s get Lt. Colonel John Sheppard in the mix.  For real, with no stones.  Make something up and get them on the ship!  I know you can do it.

ScreenRant readers, sound off for us.  What do you think they need to add to the show to crank it back up to the Stargate it used to be?  Be creative and be productive.  We already know its shortcomings.  Come up with some constructive changes!  Let NBC know what you’re thinking!

Sources:  Sci Fi Wire, NBC Press Release, Variety, Gateworld, TV By the Numbers, io9

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. 1. Rename the show Destiny.
    2. Call the gates portals or ditch them. It’s not like they use them anyway.
    3. Make a STARGATE show for people who like theoretical science and fun.
    4. Continue this show for people who like it provided enough exist to maintain its profitability.

    Stargate: Atlantis had over 4 million viewers, judging from the amount of people not watching SGU they would like to watch a Stargate show not a Space Opera with Stargate in the title. I’m glad the people working on SGU wanted to create something new and different or reboot or whatever. But calling it a stargate show when the entire mechanics of its approach to entertainment are different from the two that have come before is quite frankly rude. The Style has gone from watch us explore and make witty/silly jokes to watch us have feelings about things. Yes people have feelings, you know what people don’t have… Stargates. This show could take place in a boat. That is fine, if people like it they will watch it. But deceiving people who enjoyed another show (or two) you made by naming it similarly is only going to engender ill will. Plenty of shows good and bad dwindle and die or slog on for seasons but how many gender the amount of ire as SG:U? Once the millions of people who expected to find a show similar to its namesakes stop watching what you have left is the core of people who genuinely enjoy the show and an internet full of people who feel lied to. Hopefully for the people working on the show there are enough fans, hopefully for the people on the internet the show dies and everyone involved in the production learns their lesson (for about 6 minutes.)

    The only good solution is for SG:U to come back and represent. Romance is good, ship trying to discover the fundamentals of the universe while wandering between galaxies is good, having people literally stare at the camera and tell us they are scared, well you get less than 1 million viewers. Dark is good, gritty is great, but those are descriptors you still need an actual show. Pull some of the Star Trek:TNG writers out of retirement, a few episodes had a perfect mix of science and human emotion. Beg J.M.S. to tweak the story ARC and fill it in a bit so something happens often rather than eventually. In the end it doesn’t matter where your show takes place or what your story arc is you need good writing, scenes and dialog don’t cut it. If I want to watch people making bad decisions in a stressful environment and then tell everyone how they feel about it, I can go to the mall.

  2. Amen, Nombre.

    The real crime here is that SGU is as much SG as is Big Brother or Desperate Housewives. If they wanted to create a new series to attract a different crowd that’s fine, but slapping the title SG on it when it’s as foreign to EVERYTHING in the SG culture as the Muppet’s Pigs in Space is a huge slap in the face to the entire franchise.

    Even that horrendous cartoon “Stargate Infinity” (unwatched and unknown by everyone, for good reason), was more true to the franchise in just about every way.

    Sure many if not most SGU lovers didn’t like SG1 or SGA … BECAUSE SG WASN’T FOR THEM! They’re smoking dope if they thing SGU has anything to do with stargates. FYI, Brad Wright, SG stands for “Star Gate”, thus the “S” followed by the “G”. Did you guys really think that by adding those two letters to a movie that doesn’t even use StarGates will pull in the loyal SG fanbase?

    If you had then your viewership would be in the 6 million range (SG1 + SGa +BSG viewership). According to my numbers you’re only pulling in the BSG viewers. Go figure … and go pat yourself on the backs for screwing over the loyal SG fanbase.

    Again, it’s okay to create a new series that I despise (and I really do, you have no idea), but at least have the dignity and respect to not expect to pull in an audience bound to hate it just because you used a word in the title of the show that they find familiar. You really couldn’t be any more insulting.

  3. People keep comparing the show to SG-1 and Atlantis, saying SGU falls short, but I don’t think the comparison is even needed. SGU can stand on its own–the only connection to the other shows is the use of stargates. They probably just stuck the Stargate name on it to bring in all the SG-1/Atlantis fanboys who wouldn’t have given the show a chance otherwise.

    By the way, I like Sg-1 and Atlantis too, but it’s not necessary for SGU to be *another* SG-1. Atlantis was an exact clone, do we really need another? And maybe, just maybe, part of the reason for the declining ratings is that people have had enough of Stargate. I seriously doubt SGU would have much better ratings even if it starred Tealc and Rodney McKay and Jack Oneill who every episode go through the stargate to fight theatrical, cliche bad guys. After the 3 millionth episode of this nature, maybe that’s enough?

    I for one find SGU rather refreshing. The science is more realistic, the aliens are more realistic, the characters are more realistic. I just “believe” SGU more than I do SG-1 or Atlantis. And for me suspension of disbelief is critical for good science fiction. Otherwise it’s just fantasy. Maybe SGU is not as “fun” as SG-1 or Atlantis, but why does it have to be? I appreciate those shows for what they are, but I’m glad SGU did not take the same tone. It’s given some credibility to the Stargate franchise IMO.

  4. SGU – I’ve watched every episode and each time, felt a bit sad, depressed and denied. I love Sify and this series has so much unrealized potential.

    The characters are unlikable, the dialog dreary and unfulfilling and the scenes dark and filled with depression. While the journey continues, each episode should give us a beginning, a middle and a wonderful ending -with the expectation that the next episode will be even better. Character development is essential. HUMOR is essential. Bring in the Cohen Bros and let them do an autopsy on this thing and get it back on top.

    Whoever directs and writes Breaking Bad could offer some photographic and dialog advice. Do something that is draw dropping.

    The dialog/scripts are absolutely terrible and juvinile. One can easily fall asleep through most of it and never miss a salient moment. Turn it upside down, inside out and get some very fresh faces in front and back of the camera. Save it from itself. Turn up the lights!! Way too dark. We need a hero, a villan, a beautiful woman (the Dr. is the only one to quaslify, but she is now out of the question due to her character’s development), sex, fun, fun, fun, inside jokes, clever plots that give us hope and have closure – with a hint of more to come.

    Kick it in the ass and reinvent it = PLEASE!!!!!!

    • Well, thankfully, it’s been canceled. Canceled in just enough time that we can forget this abomination ever happened at all.

  5. I guess it’s a show for the more grown up sci-fi fan not the immature!

    • Well said! I liked SG1 and SGA but SGU was more adult and required thinking. Not just a cowboy adventure thru the stargate with the same save the day endings. SGU was refreshing and the best of the SG franchise since the original 1994 movie.

  6. Personally, I found SGA to be the worst of the Stargate franchises and I hate how this article praises it. It often seemed like a complete copy of SG1 with a shiny futuristic setting. Think about it: an alien species that is a threat to humans and they’re the primary group in the galaxy that are working to to stop them. The only reason it probably had such a large audience starting off is because SG1 was so popular (I don’t have statistics, but I’d assume that would be a major contributor). SGA just got a little too far-fetched after the first season or so (then again its science fiction) and it was cheesy to me. The thing I like about SGU is the theme they have. Everything is tied to a destiny (not referring to the ship :P) which sets a serious and mysterious tone. Its not a continuation or remake of SG1 (with the exception of having references to SG1 characters) but its a new approach to the SG1 series. But I do admit its kinda a small rip of BSG and it could definitely use more of a comic relief (I though Eli would have been that character, but they made his character grow up a little too much after he fell in love and the girl died).
    Personally the only thing I wish SGU had was a little more of the comedic value the original SG1 cast would often have that didn’t interfere with the plot too much. The gloominess of the situation is what makes people not want to watch SGU.

  7. I agree I never really got on the atlantis band wagon! I don’t know why it just wasn’t the original SG1 so maybe that was holding me back from watching it,I did watch abit of the first season and a few episodes here and there during all the seasons but as you say it just seemed like a complete copy of SG1. I didn’t watch SGU for ages because I thought it would just be the same but then just watched the first episode and I’ve been hooked ever since, think it was because it seemed more mature with the violence and emotion though definitely agree it needed more comic relief,but after watching last nights episode 12 I think of the second season it is definitely moving slowly in that direction though I don’t want another Dr. Mckay (I think) from Atlantis he was just annoying I thought! The SGU just seem alot more real and the storyline is just so much bigger than any of the other shows you know its not just about beating an enemy its the journey home or where ever there going,who else is out there with them, what is the mysterious signal so many questions so I hope it is not cancelled or at least they bring it back after a year or two enough people have requested it! I’m from Ireland though so I don’t know will Syfy care about who watches the show over here :(

  8. SGU is easily the best of the 3 series.

    Best music, best atmosphere, best cast.

    One could even argue that it’s better than all of the Star Trek TV shows.

    Star Trek is too geeky for most people.

    SGU just seems more genuine.

    And it has Robert Carlisle, what more do you need?


    If Chloe wasn’t on the show at all, ratings would be so much higher.

    Man is she annoying.

  9. I never got into any of the Stargate shows until I stumbled upon SGU on Netflix recently. I actually watched all 40 episodes within a few weeks and I am very disappointed to hear the show will be canceled. From what I have read it seems like the reason for the low viewership was because it was nothing like the original series and the SG faithful bailed… See Star Trek Enterprise. I know nothing about the other SG series but SGU is a deep seeded space adventure with very interesting plots many related to fascinating technical science fiction. This series is NOTHING like Battlestar Galactica which was a cheesy joke. I think dropping this series will be a major mistake for MGM/SyFy but unfortunately they will only realize this after it is too late… See Firefly!

  10. I love SG1 and I loved SGA. Although SGA did tend to be a bit cheesy and predictable.. that is what I loved about it… it was a sci-fi show I could watch, enjoy and relax while watching without having to think to much… it was just enjoyable and the characters were likable. SG1 was equally charming and fun to watch. SGU on the other hand… too dark, dreary and soap opera like. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and I didn’t really care about anything they were doing because they didn’t draw me in. They were missing that certain kind of spark that I found in SG1 and SGA. I would have rather had a few more seasons of SGA than to have had the displeasure of watching a single SGU episode… :(

  11. I’m in the other camp that it seems many of you were in. Though some valid points were made. The gates had less of a focus so.. to some respect, yeah, it didn’t feel like a stargate series. But.. to be fair, Atlantis didn’t focus on the gates as much as SG1 did either. Had it done so, I doubt very much Atlantis would have done as well as it did. Because there would have been no difference between atlantis and sg1 (tel’c = ronnan, sheppard = o’neill [2 l's :)], sam = mckay, etc..). Atlantis suffered from many problems. It wasn’t going anywhere plot wise. And after 5 years, the wrath had as much character development as a sheet of paper. You could have replaced the wrath in the series with any random character from any random show and atlantis could have continued unchanged.

    What disturbs me though is that many of the comments were things like “I didn’t have to think” (in reference to atlantis)… lol. So.. I guess people like sitting and drooling all over themselves watching a bunch of pretty lights waiting for the “weapons at maximum” moment. SGU did require a bit more thought while watching the series. And yeah.. It sort of was a little bit more opera like than SG-1, but Atlantis was also opera like…(don’t believe me.. watch it again, it is). Also, some of the character interactions didn’t really work as well as they probably hoped. But I think by the beginning of the middle (awkward) of season 2 they had that mostly worked out. The series was more of a character study within the stargate universe. And it did use the star gates quite a bit more than most commenters on here are recognizing. Almost every episode utilizes the stargate in some fashion. They just don’t waste the time SG-1 did showing it spinning with flashing lights and steam coming out of it in every episode. They take an approach similar to Atlantis in stargate exposure. And atlantis was starting to focus less and less on the stargates. Especially after earth is starting to make intersteller craft. However, yes, SGU is more about the ship destiny than the stargates. I kind of like one of the proposals that the series should have been renamed to something like “stargate: destiny” or just “destiny”. Either way, make no mistake it was a stargate series. Thinking otherwise is to ignore pretty much everything the show was. SGU was darker. It was more adult and less child like, campy, and cheesy than SG1 and atlantis. I think SGU is what SGA was supposed to be, but SGA failed.

    I think people just got upset because SGU wasn’t SG-1 or Atlantis. They wanted to watch the same tired old material for another 10 years instead of evolve the franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I love SGA and SG-1. But it is what it is. Tired old material. It’s not that the episodes are bad years later. It’s that that it was time for something new. It’s unfortunate the many of the fans were not ready for something new and were stuck in the past.

    • I agree with Ryan. Stargate needed some fresh ideas. It is tragic that the majority of Stargate fans didn’t want to grow up and taste some real epic hardcore science fiction which was Stargate Universe. SGU was my kind of science fiction and its passing will be sorely mourned for years to come. I died a little inside when it was canceled. I’m sure a lot of hardcore science fiction fans out there did the same. We can only hope they bring it back through another network or someone attempts a remake at the very least.

  12. I know it’s years on now but I think you might have missed the most important problem with this comparison in your rant.

    If you look into the history of Nielsen and + 7DVR statistics, they didn’t start collecting those until after Atlantis went off the air.

    So while NBC says SGU season 1 live + 7DVR ratings were better than SGA’s season 5, that is a lie. The actual comparison is SGU S1 live + 7DVR versus SGA S5 live ratings.