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Pondering 'Battlestar' puzzler: Ratings down, popularity up

Battlestar Galactica's Nielsen ratings are low, but the show is seemingly more popular than ever.

Members of the always-smug Battlestar cast are willing to show off their hotness at a moment's notice. SCI FI

As a fan of Battlestar Galactica, I've watched every episode thus far. What didn't fully dawn on me until I pondered an Associated Press article this week, however, was that out of all the 60-plus episodes I've seen, I've probably watched less than five "live" on TV (I don't have a DVR yet).

I discovered the series on DVD and was able to catch up that way. After that, I began downloading it from iTunes when it was available. On those rare Friday nights that the planets aligned and I was at home, I'd watch it on TV--if I remembered to, that is. Accustomed to watching the show on DVD and on my PC, I sometimes just plain forgot that it came on Friday nights.

According to the AP article, I'm not alone. BSG's Nielsen ratings have steadily dropped since the series debuted in 2004. "The series averaged 2.8 million viewers an episode during Season 1. During the most recent run of 10 episodes, the show averaged 2.2 million viewers, a slight dip overall but up from Seasons 2 and 3. The series lost some of that steam by the midseason finale, falling to just 1.8 million viewers," according to the article.

Despite this, the show's popularity has seemingly only increased. Jamie Bamber, who plays "Apollo" on BSG--and is the one actor whom virtually every woman I know has a crush on--said he gets hounded on the street much more frequently now that the ratings are lower than in 2004 when the ratings were at their peak.

Also, I know many people who only watch it on DVD, and most of these people aren't even the sci-fi-watching types. For many reasons I won't go into right now, this show transcends the Trekker/nerd stigma.

The producers of the show believe most people do watch the show during long DVD marathons or a few days after an episode has aired on their TiVo or DVR. This doesn't even mention sites like Hulu, where users are able to stream the episodes over the Web for free.

Even with its recent improvements, the Nielsen system is broken, as it still does not account for all the many ways that someone can watch a show. It's basically biased towards shows that are viewed in the more traditional manner. DVD, DVR, services like iTunes, and sites like Hulu are changing he way we watch TV. Here's hoping a much more accurate gauge of a show's popularity is on the horizon.