The July 18 debut of Eureka scored a ratings knockout over ESPN’s premiere of reality boxing series The Contender and all other Tuesday-night opponents, while setting a Sci Fi Channel ratings record for an original-series premiere.
The series -- about a community of geniuses assembled by the government to conduct top-secret research -- generated a 3.2 household rating and drew more than 4 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Those numbers topped the 3.1 rating garnered by the July 2004 premiere of Stargate Atlantis, according to network officials.
Eureka’s numbers also bested all cable programs for the night, including the debut of ESPN’s Contender. The Sylvester Stallone/Sugar Ray Leonard-helmed boxing series -- picked up by ESPN last August after NBC canceled it due to poor ratings -- averaged a 1.1 rating for its two-hour premiere.
ESPN said, however, that the show -- which pits 16 would-be professional boxers against each other for a chance at a pro-boxing deal -- improved its 10 p.m.-midnight time slot by 73% compared with the same period last year, when a repeat of now-canceled original series Tilt and SportsCenter aired.
Sci Fi and USA Network president Bonnie Hammer said Eureka has a chance of usurping Battlestar Galactica as the network’s highest-rated series because it appeals to a cross-section of demos, including female and younger viewers. The skein also showed that the network could create a successful series whose premise is Earth-based rather than steeped in outer space.
“It was on strategy with what we said we would do in terms of broadening the audience, and it’s everything we hoped for and then some,” she added.
In an effort to further broaden its reach, the two-hour premiere pilot will air on USA Monday night.
“The audience for Eureka and a show like USA’s Psych should be pretty similar, so if we can get some USA viewers to sample, that would be fabulous,” Hammer said. “It would also be good for USA, as well, because it’s such a strong, broad show.”