I know, I know.  You love John Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop.  You just want to pinch his cheeks.  You wish that Astrid had a bigger role.  You liked that you got to learn more about Agent Broyles last night and you even got to see him crack a smile in last night’s opener.

You loved the special effect of the dead  “dust people” and the “shadow man”.

Generally, you think the Fringe has gotten better in season two.

You were worried when FOX moved the show to Thursday.  But we told you to relax, that FOX was just looking to improve its overall standing on Thursdays (and the fall in general, for that matter) and could tolerate big decreases over last year’s numbers. And all that was probably true at the time, but now is another time, with another truth.

Sure the ratings were a bit worrisome before last night.  Now they are quite worrisome.

There are some common misconceptions:

It still did better than last year!

No, it didn’t.

Though that has been true for most of the case this season,  the year ago Kitchen Nightmares that aired on the same Thursday in 2008 outperformed last night’s Fringe by ~25 percent.

Damn Yankees!  Nobody knew it was on because of the World Series!

But what about Bones?

There’s at least a little truth there because had the series extended to seven games, last night would’ve been game seven.  But the thing is Bones at 8pm would’ve suffered for that too, and it did suffer.   By one-tenth of an 18-49 ratings point versus its last original airing. Fringe suffered by half an 18-49 ratings point.   So sure, baseball probably played a role, but it did not likely play a role in a way that would produce 5X as much 18-49 ratings drop as Bones.

Update: My DVR Program Guide Didn’t Get Updated!

OK, but if that was the cause of last night’s pronounced drop off, it wasn’t the reason why Bones didn’t drop as much as program guides that didn’t pick up Fringe didn’t pick up Bones either.   October 15th the difference between Fringe’s Live and Live+SD viewing (same night DVR) with adults 18-49 was .38 of an 18-49 ratings point. For Bones it was .46 of an 18-49 ratings points difference (more adults 18-49 watched Bones on their DVRs the same night than watched Fringe). On an absolute basis, any issues with DVR program guides should’ve impacted Bones more than Fringe, not less.

But its so much better this year, how can it be the ratings are worse?

9pm Thursdays!

There’s no doubt Fringe is in a much more competitive hour, without the substantial lead-ins it had last year. Whatever perception one might have about its quality don’t matter.  Even if you could find an objective, rather than subjective measure for quality, we’d still have to conclude what we always conclude: quality doesn’t always matter when it comes to the ratings.

The two shows I watched at 9pm are Fringe and Supernatural.  Last night, combined they did not add up to what ABC, CBS and NBC did from 9p-10p.   What conclusion can I make from that?  I conclude that way, way more people like the other shows that are on at 9pm than the shows I like at 9pm! (note, I am a big 30 Rock fan, but I’ve been getting to that on the weekend via On-Demand since NBC has ended the stupid and is no longer charging $.99 for its shows).

What happens next?

We do what we always do: we wait!

Next week will be a big deal.  If it returns to the 2.2ish adults 18-49 ratings range, FOX will likely simply view last night as a blip and stay the course.   If it continues in the 1.7 range or worse, drops, FOX will have to make some decisions about what it wants to maximize and how.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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