Syfy's Dave Howe: SGU Rides a Learning Curve

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Syfy president Dave Howe spoke with Multichannel News in mid-November and was asked about Stargate Universe and Sanctuary, the Friday-night series that at that point had not yet been renewed. Today, Syfy said it ordered a second season of SGU and a third season of Sanctuary, a pair of 20-episode orders.

Web site TV By The Numbers says SGU premieres are averaging 2.6 million viewers when 7 days of DVR viewing are added in, about a 600,000 viewer bump over the live plus same day numbers. The same site says Sanctuary averages 2.2 million viewers, as both were among the 10 shows in 2009 that gained the most audience on DVR as a percentage of their total viewing.

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MCN asked Howe about SGU co-creators Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper's response to some fan criticism of SGU, a show Syfy wanted to attract a younger audience that previous shows Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis had done. Wright, in particular, had a well-publicized dust-up with Chicago Tribune critic Maureen Ryan over a reference she had made to SGU.

Howe in mid-November: "I think it's a learning curve for all of us, actually. They ambitiously set themselves, which we obviously pushed them to and supported, they set themselves the challenge of reinventing and reimagining the franchise, and I think Brad and Robert have done an amazing job doing that. They are writing characters and storylines which are much more challenging than the previous franchises. I think it's an interesting exercise for them and for us. Because I think Brad and Robert are surprised by some of the feedback that they've gotten, and they've tried to engage the press in a way that's not something they've approached in the past, and maybe they've ruffled a few feathers in that. Part of the exercise is how do they listen to what the fans are saying and what the critics are saying and respond in kind of a constructive way."

How about the ratings? Howe: "What's interesting about the launch of Universe: when we launched Atlantis [in 2004], it was in the good old world of no C3 or L7 numbers. Episode 2, as you saw probably, went up dramatically in terms of the ratings and then we saw a couple of dips. But when we add it back in, actually, the live 7 ratings for week 4, week five, it actually went up from week to week. So it's been pretty stable."

How does Howe like the show? "I think there are some very compelling characters in there. The ensemble cast is amazing. It's much richer, much younger, much grittier, much more-real world than the previous iterations. But a show like this is something that will develop over time. If and when it comes back for season 2, I think it will continue to sharpen its teeth and continue to really hit it out of the ballpark."

And how about Sanctuary? "I think Sanctuary is a much more mature show than it was last season. The special effects are just incredible and it's just amazing to see the dramatic growth of that whole technological technique that they're using to create the show. And I think that the quality of the story telling and the writing, as they've really gotten to know the characters and gotten to know the story arcs, et cetera, I think it's going from strength to strength, I really do."

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