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

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  1. Last show of Atlantis they discover instant teleportation, don't tell me they can't reach Destiny whit that. The show is ok, but you need an alien species that want to kill you, that is Sci Fi.

  2. i absolutely disagree with you on this. stargate universe is great tv and much better than that stargate atlantis which can reasembles all trhings network. it is the a team ,knightrider etc etc screenwriting and plot but only in sci fi. television dogma that exist from the seventies on how a tv series should look feel and sound like. With stargate universe this isn't the case and that's why i primarily like it!

  3. Im glad they took a different approach with this stargate series but they really need to inject life into it, im already bored.

    I turn on the TV and all i see is a Ship flying thru space with no destination. I want some god dam universe destroying aliens! Gimme some Wrath, Tiny Robots or something

  4. Is the whole point of this article to put the boot into SGU? I know a lot of people dont like it, but the viewing figures themselves dont lie and plenty of people are watching it.
    Atlantis was great but it really lost the plots during seasons 3 and 4, the final season picked up slightly.
    I can understand why they wanted to try and take SG in a different direction. I'm happy to keep watching.

  5. SGU is one of the best shows on television right now…
    Maybe it's too good and real for Stargate fans.
    The acting and directing are superb and we don't get rubber aliens week after week.
    The CGI looks great and the characters are compelling, what more can we ask for?
    As for the comparison with BSG goes, so what? Wasn't the original BSG influenced by Gilligan's Isalnd? And Star Trek Voyager inspired by the original BSG? They are all different animals and they need their breathing space to grow…

  6. I really want this series to work. For so many years we have got used to watching something stargate & gotten addicted I suppose. Tks for your take on SGU ratings. Let's hope they'll stay on air long enough to attract a wider audience.

  7. Problem with SGU is there is zero action and you need good acting to pull off decent drama. SGU has nill in the acting department. SGA had some bad actors, but that was usually lost in the action. When Atlantis tried pure drama they failed miserably too.

  8. I think you're missing the point to a degree like many of the people who have commented on my own review of the show. If you're looking for, how can we change the show so that it's more like other Stargate shows and thus fans of those shows will like it better, it ain't gonna happen.

    The show was never intended to be more of the same, and ideas on how to change it so that Stargate fans who are upset at the show come on board aren't going to mean anything to anyone.

  9. areyouscreening:
    My actual point was the ratings spin that NBC & Syfy has pitched. If I were to believe their latest few press releases, it's one of their best shows… but their tell-tale reference to a time frame is saying that they need to declare a time frame to back their spin.

    allen heyer:
    Ah, but I did say I like the show, but in my previous articles on the show, the majority of comments have flamed the show for it's short-comings in their presentation. I was speaking to those reader's frustrations.

    I'm surprised that now we have more positive commentary on the show than we here at Screen Rant have had in the past. That's a good sign to me.

    But ratings are ratings and ratings spin is what spun me up. (Yea, yea… I kind of got carried away with some other angles, but I felt they were valid comparisons in the stream of thought I was having!)


  10. FINALLY an honest reviewer on one of my respected websites list! I was chuckling at the veritable swarm of pro-SGU poseurs who have come here i the past 5 hours. I have watched with disgust as SyFy, NBC and MGM have spun this show's ratings and promotion so much its maddening. The REALITY of this show is that it has massively failed. It has failed at being good drama, it has failed as a writing exercise, and it has lost much of the original fanbase which is the reason for the existence of the Stargate franchise. The ratings have TANKED and you are the one of the first reviewers to expose it openly and honestly.


    The ratings for Stargate Universe have dropped to HALF of the viewers it had for the premiere. DVR+7 numbers are meaningless to TPTB in advertising which pay for the slots which allow this show to be on the air. And more people are removing this show from their DVR recording list than are adding it. I recorded the first 5 episodes, and then went back and erased them.

    Thee REAL Stargate fans have been hanging on because they were hoping for something more to happen on SGU, but now that most of them know that the entire season has already been filmed, they have either given up, or will come back briefly to watch the opening of the second half of the season (which will give higher numbers than the all time low ratings for the “cliffhanger” (Justice). SyFy will crow about those numbers, but then the rest of the season will tank when the fans see that its still the same boring soap opera and shaky cameras. The ratings will tank, and the numbers will be even LOWER than for Justice by episode 13.

    The numbers ARE being spun up, and the lies abound. The SGU-lovers are a very VERY small group compared to the Stargate fanbase, and there arent enough of them to support this show. DVR+7 numbers are very spinnable, but mean nothing to the advertisers, and therefore will not be enough to intice them to purchase advertising on this show. They are reading the negative comments on the myriad blogs and the new anti-SGU websites and forums springing up on the internet (I run one at http://www.kobehq.com myself). They are watching the failure of the DVD half-season set in the retail markets, and they are going to lose interest and not buy advertising. Why should they pay top dollar for a slot on a show with such poor ratings?

    SGU is like the bomb movie which has spent money on branded candy at the snack bar, has 3D standup figures of the actors in the lobby, and an exciting poster, but then you go in and see 6 people sprinkled inside the theater, with bored expressions. Do you think the snack bar proprietor or the theater owner is going to fall for the hype? Advertisers are not stupid.

    GREAT REVIEW! I respect your honesty.

  11. Give me back SGA or for sure put some people I like on the destiny and write it like star gate and not like the crap it has been. Oh and to whoever said “numbers don't lie” I think that's the point of the article. Numbers lie, numbers lie all the time. Take an advanced stats class (heck take a not very advanced stats class) and all you learn is that numbers lie. Numbers are the biggest liers this side of washington.

  12. Sam… it's not the numbers that lie. It's the way they're pulled apart and reassembled to look the way you want them too. (Yeup… advanced stats classes here!)

  13. The viewing figures dont lie…but the press releases and SGU shills do. The ratings for this show clearly show a steady drop from the premiere to HALF (1.3m) on episode 10. DVR+7 is nothing but spin. The only places where there are majority positive comments are sites which CENSOR the negative ones. Gateworld comes to mind, and SyFy allows the negative comments, but then moved them all to a locked thread to prevent more of them on a given subject. But they are still coming every day. At Amazon, the reviews on the DVD half-season set are mostly negative, and the DVD sales are very VERY poor. All I see is a desperate production group with hired shills going around trying to pump this pig up to make it seem like it is doing well, but its just NOT. We know that the show's PTB are in a panic and stand to lose their investment, but thats what they get for making such a poorly thought out choice.

  14. I like SGU. They need more episodes like the Time Loop one. That one rules. There have only been 10 episodes so far. I am hoping they settle into the narrative a little more on the Spring 2010 arc.

  15. As much as I don't currently enjoy watching SGU, I hope the show does not import characters from the other two Stargate shows. SGU is not SGA or SG-1, and it does not need an infusion of characters from those shows to make it better. It needs interesting stories featuring the characters from SGU — stories that are about more than who's sleeping with whom this week. A few decent female characters who actually do plot-crucial things like coming up with solutions to the myriad problems confronting the crew aboard the Destiny also wouldn't go amiss.

    I still think SGU has the potential to be the best Stargate program to date, but I also feel it needs to pick up the pace, get over the endless relationship melodrama, and start telling some of those potentially interesting stories already.

  16. Thanks!

  17. I hear what you're saying IAMZA. I just miss that special edge that Teal'c and Ronon brought to the shows.

  18. As others have said, it's dark and isn't going anywhere. I used to DVR it, but now just check in occasionally to see if it's changed any. Nope; back to reruns of SG1 & SGA.

  19. I think I miss the humor and team interaction more than any one individual character, TBH. Alas, SGU looks set to retain its dark and miserable outlook. Ah well.

  20. I think the worst thing that could happen to this show would be to corndog it up to make it more like Atlantis. In my opinion the worst thing they did was add Worf, I mean “Ronin”, or however you spell mr. badass dreadlocks with the firefly revolover that has a stun setting. I found SGA whimsical and silly, and SG1 only dwelt on the serious about half the time. I liked the light hearted stuff from time to time, but… go back and watch the movie this is all based on!

    I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how they were going to get out of a number of situations, and I absolutely love the characters. Everyone on that show feels real to me, and I can understand why everyone does what they do, and sympathize in most circumstances.

    Storytelling wise, the premiere rocked with it's disjointed narrative. The time loop episode was killer, and the whole 'Sit your own ass in the chair' challenge shows the characters so well! And you know what else? No bridge!

    I think the reason NBC keeps banging their “better than SGA” drum is that this show is being relentlessly compared to SGA on every blog out there, and SR is no exception.

    To reply to the “Just dial them up with Atlantis tech” – unless I missed something the only gate that could dial the Destiny was on that planet in the premiere. It was the only one yet discovered that could even channel the amount of energy needed, let alone handle all the chevrons. To my knowledge no one “back home” knows how to make new gates so they can't just “fix” an existing gate… again, unless I missed something.

    –zerogain (formerly just “Tim”, but now I have to change my id cuz someone else has my name :( )

  21. We haven't received the Stargate Universe series here in New Zealand.

    I lost interest in Battlestar Galactica after a while. I hope the SGU isn't more of the same.

  22. They need to start having the Destiny encounter solar systems with alien planets. Similar to Voyager and its Journey through the galaxy and how it ran into alien species on the way home. The problem here is Destiny is traveling farther and farther from home. I wonder how long before the communication stones quit working?

    I can see this series developing into a pure drama with very little sci-fi content. The writing has been absolutely horrible, I mean serious, the people are using the stones to go back home to hang out, party, and hook up with ex wives? In reality, the nonessential personnel would forfeit their bodies as experts are brought onto the ship via the stones, to work shifts. Bring Rodney McKay, Daniel Jackson, or Carter to the ship and they could probably solve the problems quickly. I find it interesting that they have yet to utilize their services, and instead are wasting the stones.

    In all, the series has, so far, been an insult to the intelligence of those that watch the show. They have done very little to develop the plot or even the characters sufficiently. Everytime I watched the show I didn't relax, it felt like I was working, with a sense of dread. I only watched because I figured it would have to get more interesting, better, and that there was no way it could get any worse. Boy was I wrong!

    They need to fix this show. They need to create some action, alien races, mind-boggling technologies, and unique predicaments that really do massage the minds of those that do watch the stargate franchise.

    So the solution is to start having them encounter alien races, for them to trade technologies, have enemies pursue them on and off, and have them constantly discover new things on the ship. I would even venture to say that they could integrate elements of interdimensional travel via the warp drive of the ship, where the ship 'breaks down' in an alternate reality and they have to get it fixed to return back to their universe. Time travel could also be utilized to bring some interest, perhaps they skirt a black hole and 'years' have gone by on earth since their last contact, etc. Or maybe even a race of aliens that help them hack the ship, or even repair it utilizing advanced technologies.

    So much potential, yet they have done so little with it.

    Hopefully they fix it before it is too late.

  23. I'm comparing SGU to SGA because Syfy is doing it with every press release they release into the wild. I've personally not minded this rendition of SG but I'm dragged back to the SG-1 and SGA references by other folk constantly!

  24. [i]I excuse myself for any poor english, im a simple swede doing my best.[/i]

    Let me start off by saying thanks to you for all the years of Stargate and for your wonderful mythology.
    Stargate SG-1 captured my imagination right away and the Daniel Jacksson character inspired me to study ancient archeology and philosophy. I even felt the need to take courses in theoretical physics leading me to a very interesting curriculum and a very different life from what i would have imagined, being born into a simple blue collar home, destined for the socialist coalmines of Sweden.

    In this morbid, wretched and scortched world were man is failing every possible potential for existence and prosperity in equality with all, Stargate SG-1 was a look into the ”what if window”
    What if man was good and noble? What if there was a physical battle between a true and objective good or evil and man was apart of it as its best, what could we accomplish using the compassionate trades of our nature?

    The series was in my book doomed to fail, a Kurt Russel movie, Tv spinoff, with McGywer as Kurt Russel, dont play well into the Swedish tv landscape. Here MacGywer is god and Richard Dean Anderson IS MacGywer. To have RDA play anything other than god would have proven god infallible and hence the subconscious resistance against the show was massive.

    But it was glorious. The complex mythology, the physics and of course, the humor! Many important questions about man was asked. The various human settlements show different scenarios of what we are, have been, could have been and will be as a people. The constant hammering into peoples minds that god is, like all words, illusive.

    Stargate Atlantis i never really got into. It was more of a continuation with new set and cast, and without daniel and what he brought to the table i stuck with the memories and re-runs of SG-1.
    I am not saying Stargate Atlantis wasn't a great show, i will watch it through when the time come and i am sure that i will enjoy it. It just wasn't my acquired taste but still a good series in the spirit of Stargate and the themes i layed out before.

    When i heard it was time for a rejuvinated Stargate i was very excited. I had a big premiere, and even my wife, who wouldn't watch TV even if the pope danced naked on the rediscovered atlantis, joined me since she recognised the importance of the moment and wanted to share it with me. I thought the first episode was ok.

    A fat and hence happy RDA kidnapping Eli totalitarian style was a promising start and i really thought the premiss was a nice reboot of the series. Then it crashed.
    I stopped watching your new Stargate series after the fith episode having been falling asleep the last two before that. I have been clinicly diagnosed with sleep disorder in my youth and falling asleep is always a struggle for my once troubled soul so for thoose two times i thank you.

    I was mad with horror, mad with horror!
    If there wouldn't have been real problems like war and starvation i would have protested you.
    As a anarchist i find the way you try to controll the fans opinions totalitarian and despicable.
    And the you have the nerve to say that i don't appreciate drama, to call me unintelligent is ok because who knows, but to say that i don't appreciate drama.

    When did the gods grant you the power to look into my most inner beeing and telling my dislikes and likes apart? I am from Sweden, we read Strindberg at breakfast and watch Ingmar Bergman for fun. I like my drama, i love my drama but i want my drama to have soul. It shouldn't be clichés on top of each other and cheap tricks for ratings.

    Its like good drama drawn through a pile of all the fabricated Disney emotions we humans are suppose to have theese days. This isn't how people behave. This is how egocentric 2100 century over saturated, over civilization alized , media brainwashed douchebags behave, And a whole ship of them is like an 80's movie with only the douchebag in it, putting the same guy in the same locker, over and over again.

    I would not as many fans ever take the words that the writers an producers of this show suck, are stupid or any kind of insults in my mouth.
    You took a shot and put the di** in the wheel, unfortuneately this time the wheels were spinning and the idea turned out to be a low quality show. You have had 15 years of excellent broadcasting, 10 episodes of SGU change nothing.

    You are excellent sci-fi makers who made a unique show that ran longer than all in a genre that never runs.

    As a fan i would simply suggest you go Dallas, have someone come out of the shower and name S02E01: Reboot. With you fantastic sense of humour and creative writing and us stargate fans blind dedication it will be a good move for the first time in Tv history.

    If not, Thanks for the great years we had. Making stargate is something to be proud of and i wish you all the best with whatever projects you ever take on.

    With best regars
    Kvilla, Sweden.

  25. My only fix would be to can Universe and bring back Atlantis for a 6th season.
    Aside from that, nothing would entice me to watch Stargate again.
    And I was a huge fan of SGA and SG1.

  26. I miss Rodney's “hallucinations!”

  27. I miss Stargate SG1 and Atlantis so much…even just hearing the opening credit music made me happy. SGU just doesn't do it for me – no matter what the SyFy apple dumpling gang wants me to believe.

    That said, I have to disagree w/ Klim – the acting is actually good (Robert Carlyle?)…it's the way the show is now done that is really disappointing.

  28. Great post, btw, Bruce.

  29. I disagree SGA had some great actors it was the writing that let them down, my favourite was McKay but I was not a fan of McKeller it took away too much of what worked best and that was the team dynamic which is the heart of the show and so missing in SGU.

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