I've heard from a few people asking about Fringe. Should Fringe fans be worried? That depends on your time horizon and what your worrying proclivities are. If you only worry about things in the near term, you have nothing to worry about. But if you're the sort who likes to get out in front of the worrying curve and are already thinking about the prospects for season four, maybe it's not too early for a bead of sweat or two to form on your brow.
Good News on the DVR Front?
Fringe's ratings last week weren't awesome, with a 2.1 Live+SD (same day DVR viewing) rating with adults 18-49. Last night, the preliminary numbers were worse with a 1.9 rating with the 18-49 crowd. But this is the year of special Live+3 DVR ratings reports which are available well in advance of Live+7 ratings. I hope to have the full ranker for premiere week shortly, but Fringe definitely saw some lift on a percentage and absolute basis, going from a 2.1 live+SD rating last week to a 2.8 Live+3 rating with adults 18-49.
That's 33 percent, and on a percentage basis, it was one of the week's leaders. By comparison Bones saw 26% lift and House 21%. But those shows started with higher ratings and so House actually sees about a full ratings point lift versus 0nly 7/10ths for Fringe, despite the percentages.
Fringe almost always performed very well on a percentage gain basis last year too and was consistently in the top 10 in both percentage gains in viewing and absolute gains in viewing post air date. So the premiere week numbers aren't really news at all, good or bad.
Does DVR Viewing Matter?
It's easy to be an absolutist and say the DVR ratings don't matter. While I believe that's usually true, I'm not sure it is as true with shows on the, well, fringe.
What really matters isn't the program viewing Live+ 3 days , but rather the commercial viewing Live+3 days DVR (C3 ratings). We almost never see those ratings and when we have there hasn't been much difference between them and the live+SD program ratings. But it's important to remember that those measure different things - one measures program viewing and one measures commercial viewing. Commercial viewing is almost always lower because of people changing the channels during commercials).
Clearly in general for scripted originals the C3 ratings have a lift above live commercial ratings but from what we can figure it usually is only around 10%.
Some of that is because even Fringe, which is more heavily DVR'd than average on a percentage basis, still gets ~60% of its 18-49 viewing from people who are watching the show when it actually airs (Live). Even if the ~40% of Fringe viewers aged 18-49 watching on DVR watch 30% of the commercials, the DVR viewing doesn't change the commercial viewing dramatically.
Does DVR Viewing Matter, Pt II
Sadly, the odds of us seeing the average lift to the commercials ratings for Fringe as a result of DVR viewing are slim. I'd guess on an absolute basis, those gains were not dramatic and were not a big factor in Fringe's renewal.
Assuming Fringe's ratings don't drop, Fringe is poised to be on the bubble between renewal and cancellation. Good lift from DVR can't hurt, and could certainly be a factor tipping in the Fringe's favor. But Fringe's live+SD adults 18-49 ratings relative to the rest of Fox's schedule still are the easiest and probably best gauge of how Fringe is doing.
Last year, Fox's goal was to improve its performance on Thursdays, and it succeeded with that. Going forward there are some unknowns for Fox that may impact its decision making and impact how comfortable it is with merely doing about as well as last year on Thursdays.
Will American Idol only see the typical ~10% annual drops, or will they drop even further than normal with Simon gone? When Simon comes back next fall with 3 hours of The X Factor how will Fox accommodate it in the schedule? My guess is those factors along with Fringe's Live+SD ratings wind up mattering much, much more than Fringe's DVR viewing.