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Dec 23, 2010

FRINGE: Friday Night Death Slot, Lead In, Audience, Demographic Analysis

Anna Torv, Jasika Nicole, Fringe

Fringe has been relegated to the dreaded Fox Broadcast Company‘s Death Slot on Friday night beginning in January 2011 and many are hearing the death knell for the popular Scifi TV series.

Legacy of the Death Slot

This time slot has spelled doom for my TV shows before it – Firefly and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles the most notable – and I am afraid the same fate lies in store for Fringe. Like T:SCC, Fringe is not going down without a fight and has recently released a new promo trying to dispel fears over the move to Friday and “turn that frown upside down.”

The Fox “optimism” Promo

Just like the Dollhouse / Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Grindhouse Trailer generated to promote the move of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse to Friday, a Fringe Friday Night promo has been released for Fringe. The promo attacks the “death slot” blight head on.

The piece created by the super-talented Ari Margolis includes well-chosen clips from the show along with quotes regarding the move from five sites…The video then embraces the opportunity to reanimate Friday Nights with Fringe.

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Fringe’s Demographics / Audience

The main audience of Fringe is employed, working a nine to five during the week. Staying up to ten on a weekday to watch TV before going to bed – catching a little local news afterward – is a common practice. On Friday, Fringe‘s main audience – the 20 to 45 year old demographic – are not going to sit home and watch TV. They are going to go out  and either record Fringe with their DVR or download it illegally after it has aired. Why would they sit home on a Friday night when they have been forced to do the same all week long?

The reason the show got the ratings it has is becuase people could watch the show at 9 p.m. on Thursday night before going to bed for the night. They could wake up at 6 a.m. with 8 hours sleep under their belt. On Friday, they have many more entertainment venues open to them that were unavailable during the work week.

Friday Night Competition

The reason Supernatural and Smallville have succeeded on Friday night and Fringe will not are as follows. Supernatural and Smallville appeal to a mostly teen audience. Teens can’t go to clubs or bars (unless they live in a non-USA country or have a fake Show Me). They either sit home, go over someone else’s house, go to a party, go to a movie theater, etc. They can relate to the people on screen in Supernatural and Smallville, the fashions they wear, and can empathize with them and what they are going through. They want to be them, be their friend, be in their world, share their adventures. Fringe does not have this teen audience or this type of teen audience. Even though these people watch TV on Friday night, they are not going to turn away from their favorites that are already there. This is precipitated by the fact that there is no teen character or recurring teen character on the Fringe series as well.

Smallville has been on the air four times as long as Fringe and has a built in audience not only from the years on the air but from the comic book world as well.

Supernatural taps into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, teen, vampire-craze audience.

Fringe could tap into the tech heads except the show is tech-lite. Its a means to an end for a specific episode then its dropped e.g. Walter invented matter teleportation yet never uses it to transport inanimate objects. He has never even tried to perfect it for safe living organism use after Season One. Walter could change the world with matter teleportation yet it is never brought up by anyone.

Fringe’s New Lead-In

Fringe‘s Friday lead-in could have been the current 8 p.m. show on Friday night, Human Target, an action show right up Fringe‘s alley but in January that will be moved to Wednesday night at 9 p.m. following American Idol. You will never guess what show will be Fringe‘s lead-in on Friday. Kitchen Nightmares. WTF? BAHAHAHAHAHA. A sci-fi, action drama led into by a cooking show. Fantastic. Capital choice. To divergent audiences clashing. At least Dollhouse and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles had extremely similar audiences and were good lead-ins to each other.

Fringe’s Potential Optimal Night

If the Fox Broadcasting Company moved Fringe anywhere it should have been Sunday night at 9 p.m. Fringe would retain its demographic and audience on that night. People are staying in because they have to work the next day. Remember how popular Alias and The Practice were on ABC when they were on Sunday night back to back? That could be Fringe on Sunday night with Human Target as a lead in. I understand Fox’s wise decision to keep all of their animation on one night though.

Fringe’s Future

I hate to say this because Fringe is one of the most interesting and inventive shows on TV right now (written about here:  6 Reasons Why the Television Program Fringe is Cool): After one more season of Fringe – Season Four – the series will be canceled. Fox doesn’t care how good a show is, if it does not get the ratings, they cancel it. It’s all numbers and money with them. Fringe is simply on the wrong network. Imagine if Fringe was on HBO, Showtime, FX, or AMC. We would get five or six seasons of Fringe. Too bad.