Fox has officially declared “Terra Nova” a failure, pulling the plug after a single season after the series failed to meet expectations. However, Twentieth Century Fox Television isn’t quite giving up on the show, hoping international appeal will find another network or cable channel interested in picking up production costs.
But it’s that very price tag that might make continuing “Terra Nova” almost impossible.
“Terra Nova” debuted Sept. 26 after a huge marketing campaign, but also following reports that post-production took longer than expected. Fox had originally intended to do a spring teaser premiere, like it had done with “Glee” and other shows, but had to scrap it when the extensive special effects to create dinosaurs and the Terra Nova environment were not yet complete.
Using the hype behind Steven Spielberg, who was an executive producer on the series, Fox had high hopes for “Terra Nova,” but were obviously disappointed when its premiere earned them nothing more than a 5.6 rating/8 share, according to Fast National overnight ratings from The Nielsen Co. It lost out on its first night to “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC, and the CBS comedies “How I Met Your Mother” and “2 Broke Girls.”
It would become one of Fox’s smaller premieres. In comparison, its new Kiefer Sutherland series “Touch” earned a 7.0/11 on Jan. 25, and “Alcatraz” picked up a 6.0/9 on Jan. 16. Both shows are far cheaper to produce than “Terra Nova.”
Brannon Braga, best known for his work in the Star Trek spinoff series franchise, was the showrunner for “Terra Nova,” and said soon after the December season finale that they had already been working on ideas for what comes next.
“We have pitched a take on Season 2 to the network, and that’s part of the decision-making process for them,” Braga said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “They were listening to some of the ideas, and had feelings about what did and didn’t work for them.”
Braga has not found a lot of success since the end of “Star Trek: Enterprise” in 2005. He picked up the series “Threshold” for CBS later that year, but it lasted just one season. He would spend 48 episodes on Fox’s “24,” but then would try his hand at showrunning again with “FlashForward” on ABC in 2009. That show also lasted just one season.
Although its American audiences weren’t so great, international audiences did seem to connect well with “Terra Nova,” according to Fox. However, revenue from international audiences are severely limited, and the show would still need an American carrier to make the financial aspects work. The price tag is likely too much for a cable channel, so Twentieth Century Fox Television may just be limited to other networks like NBC and ABC.
If the show moved to NBC and maintained the same ratings, it would be the network’s fifth-highest-rated program behind “The Voice,” “Off Their Rockers,” “Harry’s Law” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” However, NBC would need larger ratings than that to cover the licensing fee likely, unless Fox was willing to take a hit in that department to depend more on international and post-broadcast distribution streams.
Ahead of the announcement, some fans — with the help of star Jason O’Mara — had launched a bit of a campaign to send toy dinosaurs to the network to show their support. It’s not clear how many of those toys made their way to Fox, or if it had any bearing on the decision (which it likely didn’t).
“Terra Nova” averaged a 4.7/7, which tied it with “Glee” as Fox’s No. 7 show, and was No. 48 overall, through the end of February. It’s just behind “Alcatraz,” the high-profile J.J. Abrams series that is also in a bit of trouble, as well as “American Idol,” “Touch,” “The X Factor” and “Bones.”
It was the No. 4 network genre show so far this season behind “Touch,” “Once Upon a Time” on ABC and “Alcatraz.”