"Terra Nova" was supposed to be the "X Factor" of the fall season, which was supposed to be the "American Idol" of the fall season. Apparently, the chain broke somewhere.
After 10 episodes and just a couple more to go, Steven Spielberg's big budget dinosaur adventure could be coming to an end. Not that the ratings are terrible -- but even with a strong audience for Fox, it may not be pulling in strong enough numbers to pay for itself.
That could mean a quick 12-and-out life for "Terra Nova." The only saving grace for fans of the show: Fox says it won't make a decision until after the holidays.
But don't tell the actors that "Terra Nova" is facing extinction. Jason O'Mara, the star of "Terra Nova" as Jim Shannon, told Twitter followers this week that a decision had been "deferred to New Year" by Fox. He added that "everyone involved remains confident and optimistic."
Shelley Conn, who play's O'Mara's on-screen wife, told Digital Spy that the cast and crew are "so invested that it would break my heart if we didn't get another chance at this. I just think everybody's worked so hard and we've created something that deserves to be continued."
But it's not that Fox hasn't recognized that. A decision on whether to keep the show going is pure business. The pilot, according to the Los Angeles Times cost $15 million to make, and subsequent episodes are costing well into the high millions, making it one of the most expensive shows on television.
Despite that investment, however, "Terra Nova" premiered to a 5.6 rating/8 share on Sept. 26, according to Fast National overnight ratings from The Nielsen Co. While it did climb nearly 13 percent to a 6.3/9 on Oct. 10, it has since averaged a 4.3/6, an audience loss of 32 percent from that high.
Not only is "Terra Nova" far lower than network expectations, it's even behind on what Fox did with the timeslot last year -- as much as 14 percent.
Through the end of November, it remains Fox's third highest-rated show behind "The X Factor" and "Bones." It's tied with "New Girl" and slightly ahead of "Glee" and "House," and maintains a No. 39 overall ranking. Yet, it's achieving numbers picked up by shows that cost a fraction of the price.
A saving grace for "Terra Nova" might be found in both international and DVD sales. The series is an in-house production for Fox, so it would collect on any future revenue generated by alternate forms of distribution. If there are enough projected sales to justify possibly a reduced per-episode cost, Fox could try to move forward with a second season, and see how that shapes up.
"Terra Nova" has a pair of episodes remaining this season before it's replaced by another genre show, this time by J.J. Abrams called "Alcatraz." How that series fares could also play a part in any decision the network makes about the fate of "Terra Nova."
For now, "Terra Nova" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
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