There is one thing that "Fringe" has to be thankful for: It's not "Lone Star."
Yet, it's impossible to talk about the J.J. Abrams show without applying the adjective "ratings challenged." That's because "Fringe" returned for its third season with a 3.5 rating/5 share in Fast National overnight ratings from The Nielsen Co., its smallest audience since the end of April.
The premiere was nearly 26 percent lower than its opening audience last season when it first moved to Thursday nights, and was rocked heavily by competition that included "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC (8.9/14), "CSI" on CBS (8.9/14), and comedy shows like "30 Rock" and "Outsourced" on NBC, which averaged a 4.6/8.
"Fringe" finished slightly lower than its second season finale, which included a guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy as William Bell. It tied the week with "Chuck," which returned to slightly better numbers on NBC Monday.
But there was some ratings erosion with "Fringe's" competition. "Grey's Anatomy," for example, was off 19 percent from its season premiere the year before, while "CSI" was down 6 percent. NBC was the only one of the major networks to show improvement, building off a 4.3 household average last year with "The Office" and "30 Rock."
"Fringe" lost 42 percent of its lead-in from "Bones," the worst audience fall of any transition Thursday night. However, "Grey's Anatomy" was able to nearly triple the audience from its lead-in, "My Generation." If the two shows were reversed in their timeslots, "My Generation" would've lost 63 percent from "Grey's Anatomy."
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. BlipNetwork 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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