Cable Bound: Sci-Fi Acquires Rights to Air Jericho

A while back, I noted how the Writers Strike finally showed one of its benefits when CTV picked up Mad Men for Canadian broadcast: it was a move that probably wouldn’t have happened if not for a lack of new programming, and it was vindicated by the series’ Golden Globes victory. Now, however, an entirely different sort of benefit has popped up that has big ramifications for the little series that could.

Sci-Fi Network announced today that they have picked up the rights to air the first two seasons of Jericho, starting with a four-hour marathon on February 11th, the day before the series’ new episodes air on CBS. When the series was first canceled, many fans threw out Sci-Fi as a potential alternate home for the series, and now this will become at least partially true. More importantly, however, it also sets an important precedent.

While I don’t want to create rumors with really nothing but speculation to fuel them, this provides a parachute of sorts should Jericho fail to get the ratings CBS is looking for. I don’t want to presume its failure, but it’s always nice to acknowledge a contingency plan – by already establishing this relationship with the Sci-Fi network, there is a greater likelihood that they could pick up the show for a third season.

This isn’t a common scenario, but this is a special case. The series has a great deal of buzz at the moment, which is something that Sci-Fi needs to consider when planning its programming schedule. With Battlestar Galactica ending soon, the network is losing one of its flagship properties – for better or for worse, Jericho is capable of filling that gap. While there is the whole question of a CBS-owned series running on an NBC Universal-owned network, it is not unprecedented and Sci-Fi operates on a somewhat different level.

In the meantime, the benefit of this development is that more people are going to be seeing Jericho. These are viewers who might not have necessarily bought into the series before, and the more ways to watch Jericho the better. I know that some fans might be a little worried about the show being labeled as Science Fiction considering it doesn’t precisely fit that mold, but I’d argue that the exposure will be more than worth it.

The only thing which worries me about this is that it is yet another example of someone other than CBS working to promote the series. While they may have helped cultivate this deal, CBS seems to be farming out a great deal of the word of mouth advertising on the series to other networks and to fans. They’re certainly not doing nothing, but I really hope that they leverage their original programming in February and help support a great launch of the show’s second season.

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