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May 22, 2008

'Battlestar Galactica' ratings take off

Bucking just about every ratings trend in television, Sci Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica” has gained in the Nielsens compared to last year.

Seven episodes into its fourth season, the show is up 4% among adults 18 to 49 (averaging 1.4 million viewers) compared to the show’s “Season 3.5” 2007 run. When you factor only episodes that have full-seven days of DVR use available, the show is up 18%. Total viewers (2.1 million) are up even more. Also: Last season the show aired on Sunday nights, a night with higher audience levels.

Why this is interesting: “Battlestar” been on a downward ratings trend the past few years.  Serialized shows, as many have pointed out, do not usually gain in the ratings.

Battlestar341x187 The numbers are also surprising since “Battlestar” has as many fans frustrated with the current season as enthralled. The storylines have turned the show’s longtime shades-of-gray character morality into a muddy and often indecipherable quagmire of interlocking mythology, with a slew of formerly down-to-earth human and cylon characters elevated to quasi-deities pondering their higher purpose. 

The one trend “Battlestar” isn’t bucking is the flight of viewers from broadcast to cable during (and since) the writers strike. Ad-supported cable has posted year-to-year audience shifts of around 15% in recent weeks.

A caveat: These “Battlestar” ratings are cheating slightly, since we’re not comparing the show to its full former season run. Shows tend to do better at the start of each season. But as season three started in the fall of 2006, it also wouldn’t be right to stack the current run of shows that started in March against a season that launched in the fall. So … a little bit of a cheat either way, but Sci Fi argues (and I agree) that this is the more accurate cheat, if you will.


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