Bumpy Start for 'Battlestar'

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Battlestar Galactica's space jump back to the small screen yielded mixed performance results.

Sci Fi Channel executives said they were elated with the ratings and viewership performance of the series' Oct. 6 third-season debut, which drew a 1.8 household rating and 2.2 million viewers from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. against competition from both broadcast and cable networks. The performance topped the 2.1 million viewership average for the second half of the skein's sophomore campaign, which debuted in January 2006. The first half of the second season premiered in July 2005.

But the show failed to match the 2.6 household rating and 3.1 million viewers for the series' season-two premiere in July of 2005. Sci Fi Channel executive vice president and general manager David Howe said it's unfair to compare the show's debut performance against stiff competition from first-run broadcast-network shows, like CBS's Numb3rs and NBC's Law & Order, with its numbers from summer 2005, when it squared off largely against reruns on the broadcast networks.

“We took a risk by launching Battlestar in the fourth quarter — we've never had any scripted originals in the quarter,” he said. “We believe Battlestar was absolutely the right show to take the risk with, and we were proven correct.”

He added the combined viewership between the premiere and an immediate repeat performance drew 3 million viewers.

“Everyone looks at the premiere number for the [2005] summer, but I can tell you now we have not lost anyone in terms of viewers for this show,” he said. “If you add those two numbers you get 3 million viewers, which matches the premiere for the last season.”

Battlestar, which did not and will not benefit from lead-ins by Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis this season, is the first of three scripted projects the network will launch over the next three months.

In December, Sci Fi will debut supernatural-based mystery miniseries The Lost Room, followed in January by The Dresnan Files, about a crime-fighting wizard.

Later in the first quarter, the network is also expected to debut Painkiller Jane, a revamped version of the network's 2005 original movie.

The new year will also see the final episodes of the 10th and final season of Stargate SG-1 on Sci Fi.

In addition, Sci Fi last week launched its Wednesday-night original programming schedule with the sophomore season of Ghost Hunters and a new series, Sci Fi Investigates, a co-production with NBC News Productions.

Overall, Howe said Sci Fi Channel plans to offer original content during every week of the year.

“Traditionally, we've gone dark in the second and fourth quarters, but from here on in, we'll have 52 weeks of original programming, including scripted series,” he said. “It means that we're driving habitual viewing and makes the rest of our schedule buoyant.”

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