Does it seem like Ancient Aliens is getting less attention than it used to? Sure, it has fan conventions and a core of online superfans, but I’ve noticed that its social media presence seems to be declining and there are many fewer articles about the show in the newspapers and magazines than there were last year. Even my reviews of the show have seen far fewer hits from Google searches than they used to, indicating that fewer people are searching for information about the show. It seems that the ratings for new episodes of the show a bearing out my intuition that the show seems to be burning out its audience, at least for now. The latest episode of the show, airing last Friday, hit a near record low for the series, just 739,000 viewers, ranking 55th for an original cable telecast that day. Last year, the show averaged more than 1.2 million viewers and ranked in the top five cable telecasts for Fridays.
For what it’s worth, the revived In Search Of has also lost about a third of its audience from last year. This past week’s episode cratered out at 754,000 viewers.
This is not an anomaly. The previous week, Ancient Aliens had just 777,000 viewers and In Search Of 705,000. Ancient Aliens’ ratings that week were even with the week before, when it returned from its month-long hiatus.
Part of the decline can be attributed to Major League Baseball and college football games airing the past three weeks on Friday nights, which drew away some of the show’s largely male audience. However, this can’t be the whole story, since games did not affect Discovery’s competing Gold Rush in the same time slot nearly as much. That show stayed above two million viewers against the same competition.
But even before Ancient Aliens went on vacation, its ratings were already in decline, down to the 800,000-900,000 range, and they have fallen at a rather steady rate since the beginning of the year. The consistent decline (though with week-to-week variations) can’t be attributed to stiffer competition from other channels or sporting events since it has been a regular decline across the spring, summer, and fall programming blocks and has followed a pattern from year-to-year, though this is the year that the bottom really fell out.
Previous to the marked decline this year, Ancient Aliens had one of the most rock-solid performances on cable. For its first few years, it drew north of two million weekly viewers before settling into a 1.1-1.4 million viewership range that remained largely unchanged for the better part of a decade, barring the occasional heavily promoted episode that brought in more viewers or random one-time timeslot shift that would send ratings plunging.
I was hesitant to say that we are finally in the declining stage of Ancient Aliens, and I have a sinking feeling that it could always make a comeback. But for now, the ratings decline seems to be the new normal for a show that has been running on fumes on the creative side basically since its second season. That said, with baseball ending, we will probably see ratings rise closer to their summer average, give or take. It will be interesting to see, though, how many viewers return.
Honestly, it’s just on too damn much. When History ran 13-16 episodes per year, I can see why it would be amusing to watch. When new episodes are on up to 30 times a year, it starts to feel like a chore. And when all of those episodes are interchangeable instant reruns, it’s no wonder that eventually the audience decided to look for something else to watch.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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