Fringe Ratings: How to Overcome Nielsen Invisibility ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Ratings: How to Overcome Nielsen Invisibility

      Email Post       11/03/2011 10:51:00 PM      

Everyone knows that TV shows live or die by their Nielsen ratings. A month into the season, several shows have already been axed due to their lack of performance in the ratings system, and several more are in imminent danger. Many argue that the system is antiquated, and that in this fast paced digital age people are consuming their entertainment differently. No one I know has ever been, or ever met a member of a Nielsen family.

Genre shows like Fringe exist constantly on the bubble, faithful fans watching and worrying every week over those frustratingly ephemeral numbers. It’s nerve wracking, tiresome and not a little bit insulting to feel that our loyalty counts for nothing because we lack a little black box. But things are starting to change: slowly, reluctantly, the ‘statistical sampling’ system that’s served as TV’s judge, jury and executioner for over half a century is at last being mitigated with new ways of collecting data. Networks are acknowledging that DVR and online statistics carry increasing weight in their decision making processes, scrambling to figure out how to account for the shifting landscape of television viewing to the advertisers whose money really drives the business.

The networks aren’t actually run by trolls who love to crush the passionate hearts of fans. If advertisers aren’t interested in paying for a show, the network can’t afford to produce it. (See the  Ratings FAQ) And right now, despite the rumblings of change, networks are still looking to the Nielsen ratings before anything else when they put a price tag on their advertising space.

That being said however, there are ways in which we legion of Non-Nielsens can let them know we’re here, we’re watching, and most importantly, we’re paying attention to the paid advertising that keeps our shows afloat. This blog is dedicated to Fringe, so of course many of the suggestions here are specific to the Fringe fandom, but most of these ideas are ubiquitous enough to be adopted by anyone wanting to make their voice heard.

Here are some things you (yes you!) can do to support your favorite show:
  • Watch LIVE: This cannot be said enough. The networks and their advertisers want you to watch commercials as they air, and honestly unless you work Friday nights, why would you not watch Fringe the second it becomes available? Plus, when you watch Fringe live, you can win fabulous prizes every week in our "Watch Fringe Live And Win" contest!

  • DVR: Re-watch on DVR after you watch live, and don’t fast forward through the commercial breaks. C3 ratings measuring DVR viewership, and specifically DVR commercial viewing, are becoming increasingly important to advertisers, and Fringe’s DVR gains (typically upwards of 60% in the C3 measure) may have been solely responsible for it’s fourth season pick-up.

  • Watch online/buy episodes. It’s hard to argue with online viewing. Websites like Hulu and Xfinity offer full episodes via streaming for free, while iTunes and Amazon offer episode downloads for a couple dollars each. All provide networks with yet more statistics on who’s watching what. You can also watch recent episodes on itself.

  • Tweet: Twitter has been an incredibly powerful resource for fan promotion thus far, and the Fringe community is vast, passionate and very friendly. News spreads like grass fire on Twitter and it’s a great way to stay in the loop. Tweet while you’re watching live, using the #fringe  hashtag provided by Fox on the screen of every Fringe episode. The reasoning behind this is simple: tweeting about #Fringe (or about anything) creates a record of what people are talking about. Networks are paying attention to which shows have a good amount of social buzz and Fringe is at the top of the list. The more we talk about it, the more they see us talking about it, and hey – talking about Fringe is fun!

  • Community: Tweet about Fringe while you’re not watching live – get to know your fellow Fringies, they really are amazing people, and the #Fringe hashtag will help you find them, as well as adding your voice to the general conversation surrounding the show. Follow @jonxproductions (Ari Margolis, Promoter General for Fringe -source of kick ass promos and a really nice guy), @JeffPinkner and @JWFRINGE (Fringe executive producers Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman - i.e. the show-runners... think Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt) will pop in and talk to us for awhile, sometimes just because, and sometimes as an episode airs – because awesome is what they do.

  • Support: Buy the products advertised on Fringe, and tweet the accounts of the sponsors who advertise on Fringe to let them know you saw their commercial during the show. @PeterInBlue has compiled a list of current Fringe sponsors, including @NissanLeaf, @SamsungMobileUS, @Outback, and @Chevrolet.

  • Check In: is a relatively new way to "check in" to whatever you’re doing at the time. It’s rapidly growing in popularity and Fringe does very well there, trending at #1 regularly when new episodes air. Fox has teamed up with GetGlue on several occasions, so they are paying attention. Check in when you watch Fringe, especially when watching a new episode live. GetGlue even has handy apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry to make it easier. Plus you get cool stickers in the mail.

  • Network: Cross pollination with other fandoms: This one is beneficial to everybody, we geeks have to stick together. Find fans of other genre shows on Twitter, Get Glue, your local comic book store – wherever – and engage them in conversation. Offer to try their show if they’ll try yours. You may end up converting a newbie or finding a new passion of your own. Remember to keep the focus on friendly interaction and avoid spamming. Geek solidarity is a beautiful thing; all of us have a common interest in keeping genre shows on the air.

  • Contact: Warner Brothers produces Fringe. Let them know how much you love the show. Tweet them at @WarnerBrosEnt, or contact them at: Warner Bros. Television Group, 4000 Warner Blvd. Burbank, CA 91522 CA

  • Contribute: Join Fringepedia - the biggest and best fan-created Fringe wiki site. Anyone can contribute, and there are always areas that need updating with your unique insight. Also, join the MoreThanOneOfEverything forum to discuss creative ways to promote the show, and to have fun with some extremely devoted fans.

  • Be visible: Talk to people. It’s amazing how many people have still never heard of Fringe. Wear a t-shirt, get a mouse pad, buy a bumper sticker. You don’t have to paint your car like some loony, but a coffee cup at work can be a conversation starter. Cafe Press has all kinds of neat stuff, or you can win something every week at by entering our "Watch Fringe Live And Win!" contest.

  • Have fun: However you choose to show your support, have fun doing it. I painted my car, and I keep it painted because I love the hell out of it. Don’t forget that spending your precious free time and energy promoting a TV show is a labor of love, not an obligation. Do what you do. Fly your geek flag high and with pride, and you’ll win people with sheer enthusiasm. People will see it and want to know where it comes from. I can’t count the number of people who’ve thanked me for never shutting up about Fringe, because now – neither can they.
What not to do: Don’t dwell on the Nielsen ratings, there’s nothing any of us can do about them. Fringe has hung on this long, and I’m confident that between its passionate fan base, its DVR ratings, and its network support (Fox really does love the show) it’s in no immediate danger. If you choose to contact Fox, or Warner Bros. or any sponsors: be enthusiastic, sincere and extremely polite. Don’t beg. Don’t bother starting ‘save our show’ petitions; they carry no weight at all with anyone, and just appear desperate and pathetic. Nothing is more likely to make someone not want to watch a show that the idea that it’s in danger of cancellation. We’re simply here to promote what we love because we love it, and because the world is so full of people who’d love it too if they knew it existed.


    Tierney said...

    Love this and I love how it gives such simple things to do to keep our show alive. Remember we are the 99%! #occupynielsen

    dana said...

    awesome, sharing stuff like this is key. thank you! I will defiantly do my part!

    Martin Quibell said...

    This is great information. It's a shame in a way for us in the UK because the decision is made for the most part based on the ratings in the states, so shows that we want to keep watching end up getting cancelled and there isn't a damn thing we can do about it.

    I will keep tweeting about it though, and get on with some of those things that you mention. I already was following a couple of those you mentioned, and have started following those I wasn't.

    Anonymous said...

    Sorry, but watching live does NOTHING unless you have a Nielsen box! You need to specify that!

    SeanD said...

    I just don't understand the watching live issue. How exactly does watching live when you are NOT a Nielsen house actually help? Big brother is tracking my television? DVR recording seems like the very best way I could help the show.

    Anonymous said...

    Great ! Thanks for posting. LONG LIVE FRINGE!!

    Anonymous said...

    Nielson uses a "set meter" in some specifically targeted homes as well as diaries to collect viewership data. Unless you are a participant in the survey--and you'd know it---simply watching a broadcast episode via ANY method does not impact the Nielson ratings. There is no two way connection scheme where somebody is monitoring your viewing and forwarding the info to Nielson. Check the wikipedia page for info. Fringe is a fine show and I watch it, I guess creating a buzz somehow that gets the "Nielson families" to watch is the best bet for its survival. I think moving it to Friday was the death knell unfortunately.

    SteveS said...

    Nielson will also remove the meter in homes that do not watch alot of network shows. We were a Nielson family for a short while but watched too many cable shows - Discovery, History, Science Channel - inteligent shows not the majority of mindless reality on the networks so they pulled the meters. Best way to be counted is VOD and online viewing or downloads.

    cortexifan said...

    Thanks birdandbear,
    awesome ideas.

    bryan said...

    lol we are the 99% ...did you watch south would be awesome if matt and trey would promote i think it would help gain veiwership atthe very least a little bit. bryan

    FringeFan said...

    Thanks birdandbear for cheering us up and giving some new ideas. We need to tell people that we're not promoting the show coz its getting cancelled, but coz it is a great show & we love it, and so would they if they watched it with more enthusiasm & less prejudice. Keep up the good work!!

    Blue said...

    SteveS, that's really interesting. I wonder if that policy hurts a show like Fringe? Fringe is the only network show that I ever watch live. I'm the same as you, other than Fringe, I watch Discovery, History, etc.

    MINECAR said...

    My family got a mail-in week or 2 long journal survey once back in 2004. I recall at the time really hoping Tru Calling would get picked up for a second season and literally watching every rerun that aired that week haha, Sad that show really flopped even when it was actually renewed, It was getting better too.
    Dang I'd LOVE to get one again and literally just have a mega Fringe Marathon.

    Dave Thompson said...

    I can convert new people, but they'll have to download, buy or rent the first season. You can't bring new Fringies at episode 4x06

    fringeobsessed said...

    Dave Thompson,
    I run into new Fringies frequently at GetGlue.
    Some just jumped in recently in Season 4, and some are starting at the pilot.

    We reading this need to encourage them to keep watching, and encourage THEM to bring their friends on board.

    Suhara said...

    Excellent article, very informative! So I took birdandbear's advice and tweeted almost all of the Fringe sponsors who ran commercials last night and some of them actually replied, so I'm considering it a very minor victory! And ratings were up a tick last night so I'm fairly satisfied for the moment... Also since Hulu and Xfinity report back to Fringe with their online viewer numbers, I've set myself a goal to leave 3 episodes a day running simultaneously on my laptop (commercials and all) when I'm not using it, whenever possible... I know it sounds excessive but Fringe needs to have a season 5... And 6 and 7 and 8 right?!

    birdandbear said...

    @Anonymous 11/04/11 2:44

    You're right, there is no way for anyone to know you're watching live if you don't have a Nielsen box.


    We tweet about it, "check in" to it, and generally create as much buzz as we can while it's broadcasting.

    Both Twitter and Get Glue show sharp spikes in Fringe conversation as the episodes air, and Fox is paying attention to the "social buzz" Fringe gets. It's unclear exactly how much weight they're giving the data, but they're certainly watching.

    It may not help as much as having a Nielsen box, but it can't possibly hurt. ;)

    birdandbear said...

    @suhara They replied? That's awesome!! :D

    Suhara said...

    @birdandbear Right! I guess that means they're actually reading the comments... I hope so at least :)

    Thought Provoking Shirts said...

    I love Fringe. It is far and away my favorite show ever. I really hope that we get several more seasons of it. This is such a great article and has given me lots of new ideas other than just watching it live on Fridays. As mentioned in the above article Cafepress is a great place to get cool Fringe shirts or other merchandise. I have an entire section in my store devoted to Fringe at the following url:

    Anonymous said...

    What about DVD and Blu-ray sales?

    Vriesdebert said...

    Oh sorry, I posted as Anonymous.
    My question again: don't the DVD and Blu-ray sales also matter to the networks?

    Shana said...

    Steve S, that's really interesting. A few years ago, Nielsen was going door to door in my apartment building. I was super excited, but they wouldn't give me a box because we didn't have cable. It's irritating that they require cable, but apparently don't want you to watch it too much. On the plus side, my building was mostly latino families so it was nice to see Nielsen responding to criticism about diversity.

    psy68 said...

    Is great to see an article that focuses on what we can do in a positive way rather than just complain about the unfairness of the situation!

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