Sci Fi's Taken Delivers

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Sci Fi Channel's new mega-miniseries Taken
blasted off to a stunning launch last week, but it's too early to know how many viewers might eventually abandon the mission.

The two-hour Dec. 2 premiere episode of Taken, co-produced with Steven Spielberg, grabbed a stellar 4.9 rating with 6.1 million viewers, breaking all Sci Fi ratings records. Nearly 80% of viewers returned for the second episode, which collected 4.1 rating with 4.8 million viewers. On night three, the show inched up to a 4.3 rating with 5.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Sci Fi is gambling with an untested scheduling tactic for the $35 million project, playing the 10 two-hour movies over 10 weeknights through Dec. 13.

To help viewers catch up, Sci Fi repeats earlier episodes before and after each premiere and marathoned the first five last week. Repeat ratings have also been strong, approaching 2.0 levels. (Sci Fi, in contrast, notched a 1.0 prime time average in November, up 43% from the year before.)

Before Taken,
Sci Fi's biggest ratings came from the premiere of its 2000 miniseries, Dune,
which scored a 4.4 Nielsen average over three nights.

Yet, it's tough to imagine even the most addicted viewer tuning in all 10 nights. Sci Fi Channel President Bonnie Hammer is braced for fluctuating ratings. "A 10-night commitment is awesome," she said. Yet, "If they came to night two, [many] are willing to go for it."

The less appealing alternative: Viewing levels could dwindle each night.

Says Horizon Media's head of research Brad Adgate, though, "If the tactic plays well, you can bet other cable networks will try it."

Taken
is central in Sci Fi's push to broaden its audience beyond alien-loving creatures. During the miniseries, Sci Fi is tempting viewers with promotions for upcoming shows like its Children of Dune
miniseries, original series Tremors
and dream-analysis strip Dream Team. "We have all these new eyeballs," Hammer said. "They'll see ... we're truly a player, not just the little niche network they thought we were."

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