Last night's ratings would surely stir the bowels of Walter Bishop and he'd have to warn Astrid not to go into the bathroom for a while.
Consecutive 1.8 adults 18-49 ratings are not Fringe's friend (note: last night's number is still preliminary and a 0.1 move in either direction in the finals shouldn't shock anyone). Update: it dropped 0.1 to a 1.7 rating in the national finals.
It's still a little bit early still, but for me things are leaning away from Fringe being "on the bubble" for next year and into "likely to not be renewed" territory for the 2011-12 season. I know this will raise all the usual suspects, so let me address them:
Fringe has good DVR viewership! Don't forget that!
Yep, it does. But it's not like the DVR viewership really boosts its relative 18-49 ranking much. Moreover, other than press releases it really doesn't matter very much in terms of Fox's ability to make any money off of that DVR viewing. I know that's a truth that's hard to swallow for many, but that makes it no less true.
Fringe is produced by the all powerful JJ Abrams, they'll never cancel it!
JJ Abrams was only all-powerful with Lost, which had relatively great ratings. Fringe doesn't have great ratings, or even very good ratings, or even pretty good ratings. In fact, the ratings kinda stink.
They'll make a killing in DVDs, International licensing and syndication!
While there's no evidence to support such claims, Fox doesn't produce Fringe, Warner Bros does. So Fox won't see that money. Unless Warner Bros is willing to very steeply discount the show to Fox, DVD and syndication and international licensing don't mean anything. Based on DVD sales estimates and the actual ratings, it seems unlikely that there's enough gold in them thar hills for Warner Bros to be willing to do that sort of discounting, though I am not sure how Fringe does internationally.
What do the have that will do better?
If shows like Kitchen Nightmares, Master Chef or some other inexpensive reality will do as well or nearly as well, there will be more profit for Fox.
They'll move it to Friday for a final season!
I can't deny that is a possibility. But if Fox doesn't have enough data by now to have satisfied its curiosity that it can't do Friday originals successfully (at least without spending a LOT more money in marketing), it would be a silly move to spend a lot more money gathering more data.
You Just Wait, The Ratings Will Go Up!
I won't deny that possibility either. Based on last year, it's almost a certainty that Fringe's ratings will improve when original episodes air against repeats of The Office.
P.S. I'm a Fan
Sadly, that is even more useless to Fringe's prospects than the DVR numbers.