FOX has canceled Almost Human, causing a flurry of fan-created “save” campaigns to pop up, including a petition with over 10,000 signatures after only a week online. The show had a consistent viewership of over 6 million people, but that just wasn’t enough to keep the series on the air. There have been quite a few popular fantasy shows lately, but very few popular sci-fi shows. This has always been the case. Can it ever change?
Incredible advancements in technology do not lead to more science fiction fans
Sci-fi fans love to see science that is either way beyond believable, or at the least, just past the realm of the believable. The fiction part of science fiction is what sparks the imagination of a sci-fi lover. When the science of a sci-fi series is at least plausible, such as that found in the show Person of Interest, it has a better chance of becoming popular with a main-stream crowd.
The science of Almost Human was just past believable, but still somewhat plausible. It garnered a steady six million viewers each week, while the more unbelievable science fiction of a show such as Continuum gets just over a million. Even an established show such as Doctor Who — with it’s extremely far-out science — can barely reach 3.6 million viewers in the United States (and that was a record-setting number).
Perhaps fans of science and future technology are less likely to watch traditional TV
Sci-fi fans are naturally science and tech lovers. There is no data to support this, but could it be possible that they are more likely to “cut the cord,” and watch their favorite shows online? For example, Almost Human had fans from other countries, even before the show aired in those countries. Some websites even offer the live feed of various networks in all timezones.
Great science fiction shows tend to be on the expensive side
A series such as Almost Human requires many special effects. Although the best part of the show was the banter between the two lead characters, the effects depicting future technology could not be skimped on if they were to be as realistic as possible.
One compromise that may work for expensive sci-fi is to settle for somewhat cheesy effects. The series may lose viewers, but fanatical sci-fi fans may stick around and remain loyal. On the plus side, the show can cut costs dramatically, more than offsetting the loss in viewership (hopefully). It’s all a numbers game, and the number of viewers must offset the cost, while providing enough profits to remain on the schedule. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find that sweet spot.
Sci-fi viewers may be more valuable than realized
Currently, the only numbers that count for the networks are the Nielsen box viewers and ratings. Those numbers are based on the likelihood of what viewers will buy based on the commercials they watch on traditional TV. They are not based on the true popularity of a show. But there is no way of knowing how valuable the fans of sci-fi shows are in relation to other viewers. Viewers could possibly become even more valuable if they are specifically targeted with ads online. Unfortunately, it may take a very long time before networks move online and begin targeting ads and counting numbers in new and different ways.