On the heels Sci Fi Channel’s cancellation of Painkiller Jane and Dresden Files due to lackluster ratings performances, the Aug. 10 premiere of original series Flash Gordon was the network’s top-rated series launch this year.
The new-age adaptation of the classic comic strip averaged a 1.5 household rating and 2.1 million total viewers in its debut. The show also drew 1.2 million viewers among the network’s adult 25 to 54 target demo and 973,000 adults 18 to 49.
“It’s far exceeded our expectations. We knew it was a buzzy series given the fact that it comes with some known quantity to it, but we’re really thrilled with its performance,” said Sci Fi executive vice president and general manager Dave Howe. “It was certainly a great kickoff to what we hope will be a great series for us.”
Howe hopes that Flash Gordon will continue its strong ratings performance throughout the rest of the summer. “Once you get past the premiere it comes down to the shows that will carry viewers with it, and we’re confident it will do so,” he said.
But not every Sci Fi show made the Nielsen grade. The network last week cancelled original Painkiller Jane after the series about a female superhero oblivious to pain failed to move the ratings needle. Through 16 episodes, the series averaged a 0.7 household rating and 1 million viewers.
“For a number of reasons it didn’t hit its stride and its audience,” Howe said. “With all of these shows you take the risk. Some you win and some you lose.”
Painkiller’s cancellation comes on the heels of the network’s decision not to renew its highly touted Dresden Files.
That series, which starred Paul Blackthorne as a warlock who used his supernatural powers to solve occult-like crimes, averaged a 1.1 rating and 1.6 million viewers during its 12-episode early spring run.
But Howe said the network didn’t expand Sci Fi’s audience enough to merit renewal.
“We had incredibly high hopes for Dresden, but Dresden just didn’t find its audience — we thought it would be broader than it was and it didn’t attract as many new viewers to the network as we needed it to do,” Howe said. “We just weren’t convinced that strategically it was the right show to invest in that would continue to broaden and grow the network beyond our core audience.”