Truth In Numbers
by Michelle Erica Green
The following is part of the text of a fax I sent Kate Mulgrew in July 1998, when I returned to the presidency of KMAS following a much-needed break. I was a bit disturbed by the media attention on Seven of Nine as the "savior" of Voyager, but Kate had apparently been reading Paramount's press releases on the subject and the network's spin on the ratings. I wanted to make sure she had the actual numbers, for what they were worth. Thanks to Anne Davenport and Donna Christenberry for their help compiling the information, some of which was explained by them in a Now Voyager essay.
Here is something I want you to keep in mind when the producers cite Seven of Nine as the character who "saved" the series. These are the overall composite ratings totals for the third and fourth seasons of Voyager. These ratings include all showings of Voyager -- the Wednesday evening showing, syndicated showings, moved or postponed showings, and repeats. One ratings point represents 970,000 viewers.
UPN has touting the numbers within a very small segment of the overall audience, the young male demographic, but Next Gen became a ratings success precisely because it broke away from the traditional demographics and brought in large numbers of viewers, including women. Pay attention to the titles as well as the numbers, and you will see that strong Janeway episodes do well; episodes with little Janeway do terribly.
|Households||Women 18-49||Men 18-49||1996/97||6.2||4.2||5.1||1997/98||5.4||3.4||4.4|
As you can see, Voyager's ratings are down for last season, even among men. I am certain this has been rationalized to you as being the result of UPN losing affiliates, time changes for the series, etc., so I wanted to point out a few specifics. The season premieres, "Basics II" and "Scorpion II," had very high numbers: 8.2 and 8.5 respectively. "Flashback" and "The Gift" also posted high numbers, 7.1 and 7.3, which are not as impressive as the premieres but are still among the highest of the two seasons. For the remainder of the new first-run episodes of season three, the numbers stayed fairly high, and the reruns which followed all scored in the mid 5's. Compare those ratings with the start of this past season.
|09/18/96||6.2||The Chute||09/17/97||7.4||Day of Honor||09/25/96||7.2||The Swarm||09/24/97||6.0||Nemesis||10/02/96||6.4||False Profits||10/01/97||6.7||Revulsion||10/09/96||6.6||Remember||10/08/97||6.4||The Raven|
Note that the Seven of Nine-heavy episode "The Raven" didn't do nearly as well as the love story "Day of Honor." Also note that the Chakotay episode "Nemesis" got the lowest rating of the period; this is relevant in light of the fact that "Unforgettable" got the lowest ratings ever for a new Voyager episode. Take away Janeway, and he's not a draw for viewers, not even with Virginia Madsen hyped in the previews. Ditto Seven of Nine. The fourth season reruns which followed were in the 4's.
The more interesting numbers for me were for November sweeps. Last year versus this year:
|11/06/96||7.9||Future's End Part I||11/05/97||7.2||Year of Hell Part I||11/13/96||8.5||Future's End Part II||11/12/97||7.4||Year of Hell Part II||11/20/96||6.7||Warlord||11/19/97||6.5||Random Thoughts||11/27/96||6.7||The Q and the Grey||11/26/97||5.6||Concerning Flight|
As you can see, "Future's End" had significantly higher overall ratings than "Year of Hell," as did its rerun in the spring. At around this time, magazines started hyping the network's excitement with the ratings that Seven of Nine brought in. What they failed to mention was that those ratings were purely among young men, and they did not remain consistent; as the season wore on, they plummeted. Among female viewers and among households, they dropped over the entire course of the season. This trend started before the defection of several UPN affiliates to WB, so UPN couldn't legitimately blame having fewer stations. The truth is that fewer people tuned in.
This season Voyager had the worst January ever among new episodes as well as reruns. Still, "The Killing Game" got a lot of hype for February sweeps...until one compares it with last season, as opposed to this season. The week before February 1997 sweeps started, "Coda" drew a 6.7, then had ratings soar with hype for the yet-unseen Borg. This year, knocked off one week by the Winter Olympics, the ratings were closer to last year's rerun numbers:
|02/05/97||6.6||Blood Fever||02/11/98||5.8||Hunters||02/12/97||7.2||Unity||02/11/98||5.8||Prey||02/19/97||6.0||Darkling||02/25/98||5.9||Retrospect||02/26/97||6.3||Rise||03/04/98||6.2||The Killing Game Parts I and II|
The unheralded "Rise" outscored "The Killing Game." And here are the ends of the seasons. Last year, the ratings for "Worst Case Scenario" caused alarm. This year it would have been one of the more highly-rated episodes of the home stretch.
|04/23/97||6.3||Real Life||04/22/98||4.8||Unforgettable||04/30/97||6.3||Distant Origin||04/29/98||5.4||Living Witness||05/07/97||6.4||Displaced||05/06/98||5.3||Demon||05/14/97||5.7||Worst Case Scenario||05/13/98||5.3||One||05/21/97||7.3||Scorpion Part I||05/20/98||5.9||Hope and Fear|
Bottom line: Voyager has fewer viewers with Seven of Nine than it did without her. She may get UPN mentioned in the trades or on magazine covers, but she is not bringing the ratings up. And the demographics aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing, regardless of what UPN claims. Viewers didn't tune in to see Seven run the ship in "One," but they tuned in to see Janeway look homeward in the season finale. Viewers tuned out in droves when Chakotay had a fling with an alien played by a well-known actress, but they watched both the big Paris/Torres episodes of this season and the big Janeway/Chakotay episodes of last season.
Voyager is Kathryn Janeway's ship. Don't let anyone say otherwise.