USA and Sci Fi Debut New Shows to Murky Ratings

Sister networks USA and Sci Fi debuted new originals to murky results this weekend.

Fighting against the highest-rated football game in 20 years on Sunday night, Sci Fi's Battlestar Galactica drew an audience that was bigger than any other cable network's that day, but smaller than its own when it ran on Friday nights.

Battlestar's season three midterm debut averaged 1.3 million viewers in the 18-49 demo at 10 p.m. - a win for the day, according to Nielsen Media Research. But with 1.8 million total viewers, it was down from the 1.9 million the season's first half averaged fall on Fri. nights. That was already down from the 2.1 million viewers for season two's second half in early 2006.

The show built slightly on its lead-in from new supernatural detective series The Dresden Files, which drew 1.73 million viewers with its 9 p.m. series premiere. That number was solid, especially given the competition from football on CBS, but didn't make for the breakout hit Sci Fi might have been seeking in Dresden, especially given the huge marketing push behind the show.

Moving critical hit Battlestar to Sundays was a risk for Sci Fi, looking to build a new night of originals around the series. Since season two, the show has run without the benefit of a strong lead-in from Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1, which ran their new seasons this summer.Sci Fi staggered them with Battlestar's episodes to premiere programming throughout the year.

To be sure, both Dresden and Battlestar performed better than Sci Fi's primetime average - 1.16 million viewers during fourth quarter. And they faced stiff competition from the Colts/Patriots AFC championship game on CBS, which pulled a huge 46.7 million viewers. Battlestar's Sun. night episode was also particularly complex and may have thus alienated less dedicated viewers.

USA Network saw stronger debuts for its original fare - the return of Monk and Psych on Friday night. The fifth season debut of Monk on Jan. 19 averaged 5.16 million total viewers, making it the third most-viewed cable program of the week, behind only WWE wrestling on USA. Monk was followed on Fri. by the second season debut of Psych, which averaged 3.78 million.

Although Psych was off from its July series premiere, which drew a record 6.1 million viewers, it was still solidly in the top 20 cable shows for the week and helped catapult USA to a finish as the top cable network for the week by far with 2.73 million total viewers in prime.