Cosmos’ Series Premiere Didn’t Earn Cosmic Ratings

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CosmosThis. This is why we can’t have nice things, people. Last night Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted the return of Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking PBS science series, Cosmos. Thanks to the Hollywood cachet of executive producer Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), the new Cosmos premiered simultaneously on 10 different Fox networks, including the core Fox channel, National Geographic, and FX. In spite of all of that, not to mention an aggressive promotional campaign in the weeks leading up to it, Cosmos’ first new episode didn’t live up to Fox’s expectations when it came to the ratings.

THR says the premiere drew 8.5 million viewers across the 10 networks, with 5.8 million of those coming via the main Fox network. Unfortunately, that only landed Cosmos in third place in its time slot, falling behind the premiere of ABC’s sort-of-zombie drama Resurrection, which dug up 13.3 million viewers. In the coveted 18 – 49 demographic, it pulled in a 2.9 share. THR says Fox execs were hoping for 40 million viewers for Cosmos’ first week.

The one saving grace may prove to be DVR numbers. More and more people are time-shifting their viewing habits, so those numbers need to be factored into the equation along with traditional Nielsen numbers before we can get an accurate sense of Cosmos’ actual success or failure. Hopefully the DVR numbers will ride to the rescue, because this is a show that’s important, and that many segments of our culture are in dire need of experiencing, and it’d be a serious damn shame if it goes down in TV history as a noble but failed experiment.

Cosmos is intended for a 13-episode run, so hopefully even if the ratings continue to disappoint Fox will at least let the show run its course. If nothing else, MacFarlane’s creations have been very, very good to Fox over the years thanks to shows like Family Guy and American Dad. Desire to keep him happy might earn at least a full-season run for what otherwise might have been whisked away by Fox’s overactive Broom of Doom. But even if it does get cut short, hopefully it’ll find a bigger audience and longer life on one of the streaming services.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that the DVR numbers will prove that there was indeed a large audience for Cosmos — they just don’t like being stuck watching commercials. You can read our review of Cosmos‘ premiere episode right here, and now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech on infinite repeat while I curse the television gods…


  1. Michael Sweeney says:

    Screw those numbers, they need to give this at least two seasons. Of course its not going to get amazing numbers at first but that will change. Let word of mouth spread a while.

    It might actually make me watch FOX.

  2. Jennifer Neugebauer says:

    Fox let them use their network, but they did sort of set them up to fail putting it against Walking Dead.

  3. heronymo says:

    If only they also premiered it on Netflix. I don’t have cable and never will. Don’t they know it’s the 21st century yet? lol.

    • Rev says:

      That’s the crazy thing, FOX is broadcast over the air…20 century technology that you shouldn’t have a problem with using.

      • heronymo says:

        Yep, tried that once. Firstly, never got a good signal from Fox where I live. Secondly, commercials.

  4. Shayde says:

    Expected 40 million??? They have never had 40 million viewers on something not called “Superbowl”

  5. Shogunorta says:

    Yes, let’s put the all-might Cosmos on the channel where good sci fi goes to die! Almost Human, Space Above and Beyond, Firefly, etc. are all victim’s to Fox’s ineptitude. Last sci fi show that got them anywhere was the X-Files! I dunno, I respect what they’re trying to do with getting hardcore science to the mainstream audience, but I feel like a major reason Sagan’s Cosmos thrived was because it was probably one of the only shows like it airing back in the 70’s. Back then the viewership probably was somewhere closer to 40 freakin million because all us sci fi geeks had to watch it given there was no Science Channel or Sci fi channel. We’ve got more options these days, and hence the viewership is way thinned down since everybody who really cares can go elsewhere. But hey, why didn’t the current science nerds hop over to Fox and check it out anyway? Well, I’d have to venture a guess that since we’ve had Sci Fi and Science Channels for years, what’s presented to us on the new Cosmos may by now be old hat. I watched the show. I liked the visuals a lot. Did it present anything I haven’t known since I was in middle school, not so much.

    As far as Sagan’s Cosmos is concerned, maybe it’s just that sometimes you can get away with a miracle because it’s the first one to try. It wouldn’t surprise me if Fox cancelled the new Cos after 13 episodes like it’s been doing all the other great sci fi.

  6. Brian says:

    I don’t have any sort of TV service, but I did watch it on Youtube first chance I got…

  7. Birdman73 says:

    Putting “nerd porn” (and I mean that in a good way) up against “The Walking Dead” an a supernatural-themed series that ABC has promoted the hell out of during the Oscars the previously week was a poor choice by Fox. It is sad, because Cosmos was brilliant. As for putting it on Netflix? Come on … people without network, cable or satellite are a small minority. Every science teacher in America should be requiring every student in America to watch this. But running it against The Walking Dead was a bad idea.

  8. Terry says:

    HollywoodReporter seems to have their sentence constructed poorly. The 8.5 Million viewers were from the USA audience. The 40 Million is an expected global haul as it airs across other countries. To say they did 8.5M but expected 40M is very misleading.

  9. AJ says:

    It could be that Fox’s audience is primarily conservative-right-wing-religious and whenever anybody talks about science and the solar system, their eyes glaze over so they didn’t bother on tuning in. OR, it could be that Tyson is totally smug and off-putting in general.

    • Rev says:

      AJ- You are retarded. First of all, it’s the Fox News Channel that you’ve meant to stereotyped the viewers as “conservative-right-wing-religious,” not Fox Television that Cosmos airs; the same Fox channel that The Family guy airs (you know that TV show by that ultra-liberal creator of The Family Guy, Seth Mcfarlane, who just happens to be executive producing Cosmos?). I look forward to watching the show each week, but by no means does it capture the imagination like the original Cosmos did. As others have said, the weakness of the show is that it’s not presenting any new information that we’ve not already seen.