First, there’s not going to be any commentary in this piece on Syfy’s cancellation of Dark Matter, as I’m still trying to process everything and figure out what to do next. The latter includes deciding whether to continue covering other shows on the network, which by doing so would also be enabling them and in a way, encouraging them to continue doing what they did yesterday. As some of you know, I’ve been a solid supporter of the network for the better part of 25 years, through all the name and management changes and up’s and down’s and so, this decision isn’t one I’m taking lightly.
In the meantime, as promised, Dark Matter creator Joseph Mallozzi explained to the fans exactly how everything played out over the past few weeks leading up to yesterday’s cancellation announcement in his new blog entry this afternoon. I will be announcing my decision later this week, but I will say this information certainly doesn’t help Syfy’s case. Unless you’re completely asleep at the wheel, virtually every network now knows that cancelling a popular series while leaving it with a big cliffhanger is a huge “no-no,” unless your intent is to actually lose viewership. Well, it seems Syfy has yet to get that memo. However, below is the full text of Joe’s statement, and so, you can be the judge yourself. You can also find it on Joseph Mallozzi’s Dark Matter blog. I would also encourage fans to check out the article “The Syfy Channel is rebooting with a new focus on science-fiction fandom” which had actually just been published this past May. Dark Matter is even mentioned in the article, but given that it was cancelled only 3 months later, it sounds like Syfy wasn’t really serious after all.
“I’d like to express my appreciation to everyone who reached out over the past twenty-four hours or so to express their anger, sadness, and gratitude after hearing about the cancellation. As I wrote on twitter: “I am both touched and astounded by your passion, your loyalty, and your white hot relentless rage.”
Today, I’d like to try to shed a little light on the circumstances surrounding Dark Matter’s premature demise and let you know what’s next. Before I proceed, however, I’d like to apologize in advance if this entry feels slightly unfocused. Between the stress of the move, the cross-country flight, the jet lag, the time change, the news of the cancellation, the furious attempt to acknowledge the online response, the noisy air conditioner in my new place, and the gauze-like bedroom curtains that do nothing to shield us from the blazing night-time lights of the Roger Center, I’m a little tired. But here goes…
As we rolled through Dark Matter’s third season, I was feeling cautiously optimistic about a renewal. Although the ratings had dipped, it wasn’t a huge fall, ultimately less than 10% off last season’s numbers when all was said and done. Compared to the industry average (the last stats I saw pegged the average drop-off at 25%!) I thought we were looking pretty good – especially when you factor in time-delayed viewers (the DVR crowd). Dark Matter was consistently ranked at the top of cable percentage gainers in overall viewers and the key demos. And, perhaps most heartening at the time was the fact that we were nevertheless one of SYFY’s most-watched shows in 2017.
Working against us was the fact that we weren’t a SYFY original. We were an acquisition. For those not in the know, an original is a series that is developed by the network and, more importantly, owned by the network, allowing them to monetize the show through things like international sales, streaming, etc. The network pays a lot more but presumably reaps the benefits down the line. Ideally. An acquisition, on the other hand, is a show that will cost a network considerably less, but doesn’t offer those alternate revenue streams because there is no ownership stake. Due to the costs of originals, networks may go the acquisition route to round out a programming schedule. Also, at the end of the day, audiences generally don’t base their viewing habits on whether or not a show is an original series or an acquisition. They watch what they like. And the more who watch, the higher the ratings. And the higher the ratings, the more broadcasters can charge advertisers. So, at the end of the day, there are pros and cons, risks and rewards to both approaches.
Dark Matter was an acquisition and, as such, didn’t have the type of money typical of an original series. As such, we had to run a very tight ship – producing on the page and running a highly efficient production. This way, we made sure that as much of the money we had ended up onscreen:
So, despite the fact that we were an acquisition, our ratings were holding (and, I pointed out, really delivering in the +3’s and +7’s delayed viewers). From a creative standpoint, we were ending the season in a BIG way: a space battle and an alien invasion. Season 4 would promise to be all about that massive alien armada and the burgeoning android insurrection. Androids and Aliens! I mean, how much more
SYFY scifi can you get than that?!
When we found out we were on the bubble, I offered to fly down to SYFY’s L.A. offices and take them through what we had planned for season 4: “Androids! Aliens! Dr. Shaw! Sarah! Kyrden! Wexler! TWO’s daughter! FIVE’s sister!” They thanked me but informed me that the decision would not be based on the show’s creative, so there was no point in going down to pitch.
If it wasn’t creative then, by process of elimination, one would assume it was financial. I’d heard that SYFY had invested in a lot of original programming for 2017-2018, and the recent announcement of their supernatural slate would seem to confirm as much. The production reached out to see if there was anything we could do to help on that front but, again, it was a no-go.
What do? Well, I knew that Earpers had been instrumental in getting a pick up for their show, so I rallied Dark Matter fans to make some noise. And they did in a big way. But still, we remained on the bubble.
The nature of the show I created and developed over many years wouldn’t allow for a nice, neat wrap up at season’s end. Dark Matter’s narrative was designed as a series of set-ups, developments, and payoffs, with multiple parallel storylines that would eventually cross and converge. Season 1 begins with our crew discovering they are criminals and ends with them being hauled off to prison. Season 2 begins with them inside the Hyperion-8 galactic prison and ends with their failing to head off a corporate war and deny a former ally. Season 3 begins with the crew facing off against that former ally amidst the backdrop of corporate war and ends with the alien invasion. Season 4 will begin with our crew, and humanity’s, response to the alien threat… The fact that I have a five year plan (rather than just making it up as I go along) means I know exactly where the various stories are headed. I know all the answers to all of the questions. And having that foreknowledge allows for a much more satisfying narrative when all of the pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place. It also means that no matter how much I could try to wrap things up in a season finale, many questions would remain unanswered. Still, I figured as a final alternative, I could try my damnedest and offer fans some degree of closure by pitching SYFY a 6-episode miniseries to wrap it up. This, unfortunately, was not an option either.
We, on the Dark Matter production team, tried our damnedest. And you, the fans, tried your damnedest. We ALL tried our damnedest. And still we were cancelled.
So, where does that leave us? Besides cancelled of course? Well, as many of you have pointed out, there are other options we could pursue, although finding someone to step in and take SYFY’s place is easier said than done (for reasons I’ll save for another blog entry).
For now, know that we’re doing everything possible to save the show. It may take weeks before we have our answers but I promise to let you know as soon as I hear anything. In the meantime, do you part by keeping Dark Matter alive. Tweet, retweet, post and respond! Let ’em know what they’re missing!
You ready to do this?”
So, everyone, you ready to do this? I know I certainly am.
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com