Sci-Fi responds to Farscape's cancellation
of the Sci-Fi Channel
Editor's Note: With the stunning announcement that Sci-Fi has backed out of Farscape's fifth season contract, the channel officially responds on their site with the following questions and answers about Farscape's future. The sets are scheduled to be destroyed on Friday September 20.
FARSCAPE CANCELLATION F.A.Q.
Q: SCI FI cited poor ratings as a reason for the cancellation. Aren't the ratings as high as they have ever been?
A: The fact is, ratings for the series have declined. Farscape's average primetime rating for original episodes in 2001 was a 1.4 [1,611,000 actual viewers] (Farscape's "rating" represents the percentage of homes that can get SCI FI Channel that tuned into the show). The show peaked in March 2001 with the season 3 premiere earning a 1.9. However, in 2002, season four's original episodes averaged a 1.2 [1,544,000 viewers]. Also, despite the fact that SCI FI is now available in nearly 3 million more homes than it was during season 3, the actual number of viewers for Farscape has gone down.
Additionally, in past seasons, Farscape had built upon its lead-in program (i.e., had more viewers than the program preceding it - a standard industry indicator of a show's success). For example, during the summer of 2001, Farscape increased 44% in ratings and 51% in households over its lead-in, The Invisible Man. However, this past summer, Farscape lost 29% of its lead-in program in terms of ratings, and 27% in households.
Q: SCI FI also cited "the rising cost of production" for the cancellation. Isn't it true that the costs have not changed between seasons 4 and 5?
A: While it is true that there was no rise in production costs between seasons 4 and 5, there was a very steep rise in cost between seasons 3 and 4. At that time, the cost-benefit ratio was far more equitable - Farscape was the highest rated original series on the Channel and it consistently performed well. In light of the fact that the ratings failed to maintain, and actually suffered a decline during season 4, the overall high cost to produce Farscape became an issue. We were faced with a show that was costing considerably more than it had during its first three seasons, while attracting a smaller audience. Farscape was failing to meet its advertising estimates and its continuation for a full 22-episode fifth season no longer made financial sense.
Q: Did SCI FI have any intention of producing season 5, or was the two-season pick-up announcement just a publicity stunt?
A: SCI FI had every intention of going forward with season 5 when the initial deal was made. However, with the slip in ratings, we could not justify production of another 22 episodes at Farscape's current high cost. We then immediately began an aggressive pursuit of a shortened 13-episode season 5. We did this knowing that we would be forced to incur significant financial penalties, above and beyond the usual per-episode cost of production. Up until the last moment, we all believed that this would work out. Unfortunately, we could not come to terms with our production partners. We certainly did not want to see Farscape end abruptly. We are disappointed to have the series end this way.
Q: Didn't you hurt the ratings by changing Farscape's time period?
A: Farscape was moved to the 10pm spot in the hopes that new SCI FI viewers tuning into the debut of Stargate SG-1 would stay around to sample Farscape and become hooked on the show. For the first few weeks of the new SCI FI Friday lineup, we even created special episodic promotions for Farscape that aired within Stargate, in an effort to push viewers to Farscape. However, despite the fact that large numbers of new viewers did show up to watch Stargate, not enough of them stayed tuned for Farscape.
One other unfortunate point to note is that at 10pm, Farscape faced no competition from UPN, WB or Fox, as those networks stop broadcasting dramatic shows after 10pm, and in most markets switch to local news. Yet, even with less broadcast network competition at 10pm than at 9pm, Farscape's ratings still declined this season.
Q: Wasn't SCI FI's lack of promotion of Farscape directly to blame for the series' failure to reach new viewers? Stargate SG-1 was given far more promotion by the network.
A: This is a misconception. SCI FI made a conscious decision to promote both Friday night original series equally. All of our promotion was directed at the night - SCI FI Fridays. Therefore, Farscape received equal advertising and promotional dollars as Stargate SG-1, and received more marketing support for the launch of season 4 than it had at any other time aside from its premiere. In fact, over the years, SCI FI has dedicated more promotional dollars to Farscape than to any other SCI FI original series.
Q: How can you call Farscape a "beloved show" and still cancel it?
A: Despite what many seem to believe, those who work at SCI FI Channel truly love Farscape. It was one of our first original series, and became our signature show. With four full seasons, it is also the Channel's longest running original series. However, television is a business and despite every effort on our part, with the ratings dipping, the Channel could not commit to the high financial cost of producing another season. We were deeply involved in Farscape's inception and development and continue to be extremely proud of the series. Farscape was birthed here and ran for four full seasons - it was a very difficult decision.
A: No. Negotiations for the series are completely separate. The decision to end Farscape after season 4 was based solely on its ratings performance in relation to its high cost of production. Whether we do more episodes of Stargate or not has nothing to do with Farscape.
Q: Why won't SCI FI Channel release Farscape to another network? Wouldn't that save the show?
A: SCI FI has not been approached to release Farscape to another network. From what we understand, despite efforts otherwise, there was no deal possibility for the show at any other network.
Q: Did SCI FI make the cancellation announcement on a Friday to keep it quiet?
A: Actually, SCI FI did not make the announcement. As of close of business on Friday, September 6, we were still in negotiations regarding Farscape's future. Late that night, unbeknownst to SCI FI, the cancellation was announced to fans via an impromptu online chat conducted by a few people at the production. We confirmed the news when it became official on Monday morning.
Q: Is it true that SCI FI automatically deletes any e-mail with the word "Farscape" in it?
A: This is not the practice of the Channel. However, we have requested that fans direct their e-mails to a specific e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) in order for us to monitor and keep track of their messages. It is only when messages are sent directly to SCI FI employees that there is a danger of deletion, since our mailboxes can only handle a certain volume of e-mails. They simply cannot all be read. We request viewers to direct their messages to the appropriate addresses. Viewers are also encouraged to direct their phone calls to our Viewer Hotline, (212) 413-5679, which is checked frequently throughout each business day.
Q: There are rumors that SCI FI canceled the series because "the network brass hated the series." Is this true?
A: Once again, there is no truth to those rumors. Farscape's greatest supporters can be found at the Channel. Farscape's creator, Rockne O'Bannon, has even been quoted in a recent interview as stating that SCI FI Channel President "Bonnie (Hammer) has always been a real strong supporter of the series and seen the value in it." This has been an extraordinarily difficult decision to reach for all of us here at SCI FI, at every level.
Q: Have the sets been destroyed?
A: Although they were initially scheduled to be struck during the week of September 9, SCI FI Channel requested a reprieve as any possibility of saving the series was explored. Unfortunately, we understand that the sets will now be struck by Friday, September 20.
Q: Is it true that Farscape has been taken off the air?
A: No. The remaining eleven new episodes of season 4 will begin airing in January. Additionally, SCI FI will air an 11-episode Farscape Chain Reaction on December 24 from 8am - 7pm ET/PT. After the conclusion of season 4, all four seasons of Farscape will continue to air on SCI FI in repeats.