Syfy has been repeating a mantra about returning to the deep space programming that made them popular in the mid-2000s, now they’re proving their resolve, canceling their top rated drama, Defiance, three seasons in. Just a few days ago they also canceled supernatural drama Dominion, and their original dramas Haven and Continuum are in their final seasons.
Grant Bowler and Julie Benz starred in the earth-set dystopian drama which portrayed the world after it had been colonized by 4 alien races. The series was known for shifty political alliances, complex family relationships, and really, really good alien makeup. It was produced by Universal Cable in partnership with Trion World, who created the companion game, which has received mid-level reviews from gaming sites.
Deadline is calling the decision a financial move since both the show and the cross-platform programming were expensive to produce, and TV ratings were on the decline. The series premiered to 2.7 million viewers in 2013 but dropped to 1.4 million by the end of season 2, and just 1.1 million throughout season 3.
Syfy’s head of original programming, Bill McGoldrick, has previously commented on Comcast’s (who owns Syfy) commitment to investing in good dramas. He told EW:
I certainly think our shows are already looking better than they have in the past because the corporation supporting us [Comcast], and the corporation understands that we should be investing in genre right now. That’s been the biggest pleasant surprise I’ve had since I’ve arrived — the amount of resources Comcast is providing and kind of everybody up the food chain is recognizing that to pull off sci-fi in the way that we really want to pull it off, you do have to spend. You don’t have to be a reckless drunken sailor, but you do have to sometimes even outspend basic cable competitors for the shows to look the way they will.
Cable ratings are a fickle business since, by design, many cable networks serve niche audiences. Even one of Syfy’s most beloved shows ever, Battlestar Galactica, averaged just over 2 million viewers, and their current second-place original drama, Dark Matters, is pulling about 1.1 million. But when a show sees such a consistent drop, and the storyline isn’t getting any simpler, its doubtful viewers are going to come back. There are just too many good options releasing all the time on both cable and on-demand services these days.
has previously outlined the network’s mission to get away from earth-bound shows and back into space. Recent miniseries Ascension and upcoming series The Expanse are examples of the direction the network is headed. Current mystery drama 12 Monkeys and zombie horror-comedy ZNation have also been renewed.