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‘Fringe’ Costs Fox Weekly Win … Is It A Goner?

Sources say Warner Bros. could buy it one more season


Fox might be talking a lot about “Fringe” and its support for the show. And while the quality might be there, the audiences just aren’t — especially since the network decided to move it to Friday night.

“Fringe” hit a series low this past week, earning just a 2.2 rating/4 share in Fast National ratings from The Nielsen Co. Not only was that down 19 percent since “Fringe” moved to Fridays on Jan. 21, it was just enough to cost Fox its first weekly network win of the season (when the Super Bowl is removed), giving yet another weekly ratings crown to CBS.

In fact, going into Friday, Fox had a somewhat comfortable lead over CBS to have the best numbers of the week, even when football’s biggest game wasn’t considered. Yet, it was poor outing of “Fringe” (along with a weak lead-in from “Kitchen Nightmares”) that spelled doom for the network, leaving it in second place, according to Airlock Alpha sister site Inside Blip.

But nothing was good news for network genre programming this week, and to be honest, it hasn’t been good news for quite some time.

Nearly every show that aired during the first week of November sweeps hit series low. “V” led the pack, but just barely, with a 3.2/5, slightly ahead of sister ABC series “No Ordinary Family.” “V” is averaging just a 3.5/5 this season, it’s 32 percent off its pace from last year, through the end of January. “V” is 44 percent lower than what ABC did in its Tuesday timeslot last year, and it’s even 5 percent lower than what “No Ordinary Family” did over two airings at the 9 p.m. hour Nov. 30 and Dec. 7.

“Chuck” has also suffered this season, but it can’t blame Mondays. The new NBC drama “Harry’s Law” has been pretty solid at 10 p.m. (so far, NBC’s best-rated show of the season, and by far it’s biggest new program), while nothing else on Mondays has worked for the Peacock network.

“Chuck” earned a 3.1/5, and is averaging just a 3.3/5, which is 8 percent lower than what NBC did in the timeslot the year before. “Chuck” also is 15 percent off its ratings pace from the year before in numbers compiled through Jan. 30.

So what’s happening? Is the genre really wearing out its welcome? Or are the shows (and the scheduling) to blame?

“The Cape,” which now has an Audience Loyalty Index Rating of 86.0 — meaning of all the people who tuned in to see “The Cape” once, only 86 percent return to watch it each week — is among network television’s worst performers in the ratings department week in and week out. The 2.7/4 is not too far ahead for what “Vampire Diaries” was earning last season … for The CW.

But even The CW, which has found tremendous success in genre programming, is struggling. “Smallville” ratings are actually up some 7 percent over last year. The bad news is, the show is already scheduled to end its 10-year run in May. “Vampire Diaries” has slipped 9 percent from the previous year.

And “Supernatural” — poor “Supernatural.” The 1.1/2 it earned this past week was by far a series low. Even before this week’s airings, “Supernatural” was down 16 percent since its move to Fridays from the year before, and is losing 13 percent of its lead-in from “Smallville” on average.

So what’s staying and what’s going? “Smallville” is obviously gone — we knew that last year. “The Cape” will almost definitely not return, and “The Event” will most likely join it in the NBC mass grave.

Sources have been telling Airlock Alpha that Warner Bros. Television could lower the licensing fee for “Fringe,” giving it a farewell season in 2011-12, and giving it just enough episodes to find success in other markets, like DVD and syndication. Outside of a miracle, don’t expect more than that. “Fringe” is one of Fox’s lowest-rated shows now, and is nearly 30 percent off its numbers from the year before.

Spring might not be a good time for genre fans. It could be a bloodbath out there. But thank goodness shows like “Terra Nova” and maybe even “Wonder Woman” are waiting in the wings. Either these shows will be the salvation of the genre on network television, or it could ensure its extinction for at least a few years, keeping westerns, primetime game shows and variety program company.

Top Genre Shows, Feb. 6 — [Audience Loyalty Index rating]

1. (1)   V (ABC)    3.2/5    [86.5]
2. (-)   No Ordinary Family (ABC)    3.1/5    [70.2]
2. (1)   Chuck (NBC)    3.1/5    [88.8]
4. (3)   The Cape (NBC)    2.7/4    [86.8]
5. (4)   Fringe (Fox)    2.2/4    [91.7]
6. (5)   Vampire Diaries (CW)    1.7/3    [92.9]
7. (6)   Smallville (CW)    1.4/2    [88.0]
8. (7)   Supernatural (CW)    1.1/2    [81.9]

Fast Nationals usually provide a snapshot of what Americans are watching by pulling numbers from the top urban markets that include both live viewing and same-day timeshifted viewing. A rating point generally represents more than 1.1 million households while the share indicates the percentage of televisions turned on that was tuned to the specific program. These numbers typically shift when final ratings are issued.

Data collected from The Nielsen Co., as distributed by Zap2it. GenreNexus tracks non-news, non-event programming, and figures for this story reflect airing of new episodes only. For more information on the Audience Loyalty Index, click here.

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