A lot of speculation and blame has gone around regarding the apparent decision of the SCI FI Channel not to pick up Legend of the Rangers as a series. Well here are the facts we know, as well as some opinions, on what happened. Hint: don’t blame it all on SCI FI Channel.
We know SCI FI did a lot to promote the movie. Even President Bonnie Hammer had her BMW turned into a moving sign for the show…so what happened? The 2-hour movie/pilot did great on the West Coast, with a rating around 3.2 – but on the East Coast it didn’t do so good – it was up against the Snow Bowl – the football playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots that turned into one of the biggest games in recent history. You naturally lost the New England audience for live viewers (including me – my TiVo recorded it). This resulted in the “okay” national rating of 1.7.
Why did SCI FI schedule against an NFL playoff game? They didn’t. That week should have held the Conference playoffs, which were only on Sunday. But the events of 9/11 resulted in the whole NFL schedule being pushed back a week – thus placing a Divisional playoff game against it. Could SCI FI have changed the schedule? Possibly, but after all the advertising, that was a difficult proposition.
So what? It got 3.2 on the west coast – shouldn’t that count for something? Not to the advertisers. They want one number – the national number. You can’t say “Well, it only got a 1.7, but there was this circumstance and this…” and expect them to bite. Any guess on what it would do had it not faced the playoffs is pure speculation – no matter how educated.
Now, given the national number, advertisers would be willing to pay a certain amount for a slot. The higher the ratings, the more they’re willing to pay. This is adjusted by demographics – if the right people are watching (those with disposable income that might buy their products), they’ll pay more.
Now remember that a space-based science fiction program tends to cost more to produce than an average contemporary drama – there are sets, props, makeup, special effects – all of which cost money. So such a show needs to bring in more advertising dollars than average. In order to achieve this, you need higher ratings.
Now factor in this: SCI FI is in it for the money, like any other network (except maybe PBS). Break-even on the production isn’t enough. They need to cover their own costs, etc. and make a profit. They aren’t going to bankroll a series on the hopes that the ratings will prove out down the road so they can charge more.
So, if the advertisers aren’t willing to put up the money, you can’t put on a show. Period. Regardless of how good it could be, there is that word – could. Falls in line with other words like “maybe”, “possibly”, and other words that advertisers don’t want to hear. They want concrete numbers.
Could SCI FI have done more? Well, they could have scheduled another showing – but could it have gotten the same or better ratings? Unlikely. You have one shot really to reach your target audience. Those that already saw it are less likely to watch it again. And it is difficult to spend all that advertising money again – it wasn’t in the budget. So, yes they could have shown it again – and probably have worse numbers than the first time.
So, Rangers was in essence another casualty of the attacks of 9/11. Yes, it was all circumstantial, but without the firm numbers to back up speculation, no television program will make it on the air. And that is pretty much that.