If you’re a science-fiction buff, especially one who’s into deep space odysseys, then you’ll feel right at home with Syfy’s, “Dark Matter,” which got under way for a third season on June 9th. The show is reminiscent of several outer space movies, especially the 1979 classic, “Alien,” starring Sigourney Weaver as Chief Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley.
“Alien” begins with the spaceship Nostromo hurtling back to earth with a 6-person crew in deep stasis… that is “asleep” is suspended animation. “Dark Matter” begins the same way with a crew in stasis while their spaceship “Raza” plunges into the dark and murky unknowns of outer space. The difference is that, when the “Raza” crew awakens, the members haven’t a clue as to who they are or what they are doing aboard a castaway spaceship. (By the way, the name of their spacecraft has a certain resemblance to the Latin phrase, “tabula rasa,” or, blank slate. Alternatively, “Raza” is a Spanish term for “race” and is used colloquially as a reference to Mexicans or Chicanos.)
The nameless, amnesic crew of the Raza decides that each member will be given a number based on the order in which they came out of stasis, and so we are introduced to characters named “One” through “Six.” Clever! The remarkable thing about this numeric collection of space travelers is that – unbeknownst to them – they each possess a special skill (which unfolds as the series progresses.) There’s a martial arts fighter, a clairvoyant, spaceship engineer, etc. — you get the idea… skills that allow the group to fight monsters, space marauders and menacing corporate mining entities on far away dusty planets.
In Season One, the show performed more or less in line with the network’s overall audience delivery in its 10pm time slot. But Season Two was another story. The spaceship Raza (along with the entire show) entered into a dark vortex that has encumbered so many other television series — a spiraling decline in overall usage levels that has sapped away precious rating points. “Dark Matter’s” Live ratings and shares fell precipitously, although it should be noted that the show accrued a lot of DRV usage – a sure sign of viewer interest and engagement. For example, the Live+ 15-Day DVR rating in Season Two is 4-times higher than the Live-only rating:
Local Market Viewing Skews
“Dark Matter” exhibits a regional viewing skew unlike many of the other series we’ve written about in this space. We looked at the first five episodes from Season Two (2016) and found that – out of the Top 25 viewing DMAs — a cluster of them can be found in both the South and the West (even as far west as Fairbanks, Alaska.) A southern market skew is not surprising given that region’s above average viewing levels. The same, however, cannot be said for the west… but for whatever reason, “Dark Matter” appeals to viewers in states such as Arizona, Alaska and Nebraska. Another distinction is that the Top 25 viewing DMAs tend to be smaller markets with a median household population of ~170,000 — nearly 40% smaller than the median across all 200+ DMAs:
Local Cable Advertising
Over its first two seasons, “Dark Matter” attracted 50+ clients who ordered nearly 400 spots across 29 Viamedia markets (~40% of Viamedia’s national footprint.) That comes to an average of seven 30-second spots per client. (Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
In terms of local market advertising categories, Automotive is far and away the largest, capturing two-thirds of all cable ad investments – a figure that is double the share level we normally see company-wide. Indeed, we never see an Automotive share this high for non-sports programming content. With so many dollars accruing to the Automotive category, there’s very little left over for the other 27 categories we track, although it should be noted that the next three largest (Restaurants, Financial Services and Food) all captured shares slightly above their average company-wide:
On to Season Three
“Dark Matter” has several elements going for it, with a cast of appealing young actors, interesting plot lines and a gritty cinematic look and feel to it that is often times quite believable. And the last episode of Season Two was a real cliff-hanger with the survival of the entire crew very much in doubt. Of course, the creators won’t kill them off just yet as Season Three gets underway on June 9th, but it remains to be seen whether or not the show can withstand any further audience erosion. Prime Directive for the writers and directors: time for the afterburners!
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP Media Research, Viamedia