Typing Faster

January 6, 2010

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Filed under: Dollhouse, Flash Forward, Kvetch, Stargate Universe, Stuff I Like, the biz, V — petertypingfaster @ 5:00 am

My favorite type of logical fallacy has always been those of the questionable cause variety. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc is the one I know best (and you win a prize if you can tell me what TV show I learned it from).

It translates a little something like this: “After this, therefore because of this,” which, this being a fallacy, is often untrue.

The problem with causation fallacies is that they’re inherently sexy. They appeal to our very human desire for making order out of chaos. It’s just too bad that life seldom works that way.

I couldn’t help but think of all this after I read this article from Screenrant, the basic premise of which is that the SyFy channels’ rebranding has been a smashing success.

And at first glance the numbers would seem to bear that out.

Warehouse 13 has become the cableco’s most successful show ever, bringing in roughly 3.9M viewers an episode.

Eureka brought in 3.15M viewers an episode.

Ghost Hunters nabbed 3.05M viewers.

SGU‘s at 2.64M.

SyFy moved from 9th place amongst cable channels to 6th place. Any way you slice it, it’s been a great year for SyFy.

But can you chalk it all up to a simple name change? Does it really make that much of a difference to people whether the channel they’re watching is called Sci Fi or SyFy? Can you actually prove a causal link between the two?

I’m more than a little skeptical, for a few reasons.

1) Warehouse 13, SyFy’s most successful show ever, is a new show. It premiered the same day the channel officially changed its name. Now did people come and watch it because it was a new show that looked like fun? Or did they just happen by the channel because of the new name and decided to stick around and watch for a while? Chalking up Warehouse 13‘s success to the networks overall rebranding as opposed to the show’s inherent creative strengths seems disingenuous at best.

2) The numbers have been cherrypicked. In fact, I can’t find any independent corroboration for the numbers listed above. Websites like TV By The Numbers have these shows doing much more poorly, and rate them in a different order (for example Battlestar Galactica becomes the second most watched scripted show, and both Battlestar and SGU do better than Eureka. Makes you wonder.

3) Speaking of things that make you wonder, the numbers for Eureka are especially suspect. Why is the 3.15M viewers an episode only including the episodes from the second half of season 3? That’s not an average!

4) What about other factors? There’s a dearth of good sci fi shows on broadcast this year, and the audience erosion for sci fi shows like Dollhouse, Fringe, Flash Forward and even the four episodes of V seem to indicate that the viewing public twigged to that fact early.

Anyways, all I’m trying to say is that chalking up the entire change to simply changing the name seems a little pat to me. The rebranding may have had a huge impact, but somehow I doubt it. I think it’s much more likely that any bump in viewership is due more to SyFy airing quality programming this year than a simple name change.

Content is king after all.



  1. I do believe that came from The West Wing.

    Comment by Marsha_R — January 6, 2010 @ 8:20 am

    • You get a cookie!

      “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc” was the title of The West Wing’s second episode.

      Comment by petertypingfaster — January 6, 2010 @ 8:23 am

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