Sci Fi’s ‘Stargate’ swinging closed

Series ends run, but finds new life online

“Stargate: SG-1,” the longest-running science-fiction series in TV history, has finally reached the end of its journey, going out of production after the final episodes of its 10-year run are completed.

Ratings for the series’ original runs had fallen off from 2.55 million total viewers (Jan. 21-March 25, 2005) to 1.95 million in the current cycle (July 14-Aug. 18) on the Sci Fi Channel. But the series was still racking up a solid 1.13 million adults 25-54 and 1.02 million adults 18-49 during the last eight weeks.

The cancellation “was not a ratings-driven decision,” said Mark Stern, exec VP of original programming for the Sci Fi Channel. “We’re actually going out on a high note,” he said, as the net has given the production staff enough time to usher the series to a conclusion tying up all the loose ends.

Stern said Sci Fi plans to use some of the cast members of “SG-1” on the successful “Stargate: Atlantis” sequel, now in its third season and still going strong.

While it’s transitioning off the air, “Stargate” is moving into Internet downloads for the first time.

MGM made a deal with Apple to start selling episodes of both “Stargate: SG-1” and “Stargate: Atlantis” on Monday. Studio put up several library episodes of each skein, and it will post new episodes for sale the day after they air on Sci Fi.

Deal for Internet downloads is the first MGM has made with its vast TV library.

“SG-1” had an unusual history, starting off as an original series on Showtime, where it ran for five years (1997-02). Simultaneously, Sci Fi Channel was playing the reruns of “SG-1” five times a week.

When Showtime canceled “SG-1” in 2002, Sci Fi decided to keep it in production. Throughout all of these years, producer-distributor MGM-TV was pocketing additional revenues by selling from “SG-1” in weekend off-net syndication.

As late as 2000-01, “SG-1” was averaging a solid 2.8 household rating in rerun syndication, with a 1.9 rating in adults 18-49. During the last year, its household rating in syndication has slipped to a 1.6, consistent with the overall decline in syndicated sci-fi action hours.

Sci Fi Channel is well stocked with original series. In addition to “Stargate: Atlantis,” net schedules two successful original scripted series, “Battlestar Galactica” and “Eureka.” A new scripted series, “The Dresden Files,” produced by Nicolas Cage’s company, kicks off in January.

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