Here we go again. With series-low ratings, ‘Fringe’ is in danger of being cancelled. This discussion is not new for fans of FOX’s sci-fi series, but with numbers this low, this time the threat is real.

As reported by TVLine, during its first season, ‘Fringe’ aired on Tuesdays and had an average of 10 million viewers, but FOX moved the show to Thursdays and moved it again at the beginning of its third season to Fridays. Season 4 opened with 3.5 million viewers and a 1.5 rating, and the numbers have fallen as this season has progressed. The midseason finale had a 1.1 rating and a 3 share ( The midseason finale finished fourth in the timeslot. In comparison, NBC’s ‘Grimm’ had a 1.6 rating and a 5 share, while the CW’s ‘Supernatural’ had a 0.7 rating and a 2 share for the same night.

What do all of these numbers mean? Rating is the estimated percentage of TV households watching a show in the average minute; ratings are the potential audience, the possible viewers. Share is the percent of TVs in use. For example, pretend we are in a town with 5000 TV households. The total of people watching TV Show A is 1550. The rating for TV Show A is 31 (1550/5000). Since only 3750 TVs are in use while TV Show A is on the air, the share for TV Show A is 41 (1550/3750). Although ratings and shares are percentages, the percent sign is not used. Sometimes a show will be reported as having a “6/18” overnight result. This means the rating is 6 and the share is 18; the rating is always listed first.

For ‘Fringe,’ a 1.1/3 is not good. Friday is traditionally a night not many watch TV live. When the Live+7 DVR playback numbers are included, ‘Fringe’ improves, increasing its numbers by 40-63%. The show’s ability to increase dramatically with the help of DVR playback helped get it renewed for Season 4, but it might not be enough to get a Season 5. Also helping the show get a fourth season was Warner Bros. TV, who produces the show, willingness to cut its licensing fee, making the show cheaper for FOX. WBTV has syndication as a goal, but I doubt WBTV will cut its fees again. DVD and Blu-Ray sales help the financials, but those numbers don’t really factor into a show’s chance of getting renewed.

Why? Because advertising dollars make the TV world go round. Advertisers don’t care about DVR numbers or DVD/Blu-ray sales because their commercials aren’t being watched. Few live eyes during the commercials means networks cannot ask for a lot of money from advertisers. Without money from advertisers, networks lose money. TV is a business. A show without a solid profit margin is likely to get cancelled even if the numbers are decent. Syfy’s ‘Eureka’ is a prime example of a show with decent numbers getting cancelled because the profit margin was too low.

So a 1.1/3 for ‘Fringe’ is not good because not enough people are watching the show live. The timeslot has become rougher for the show because it’s competing against ‘Grimm’ and ‘Supernatural.’ If more people watch the show live, then FOX will consider keeping the show. FOX is unlikely to cancel the show outright; the network will probably let the show finish the season, so there is time for the show to improve.

‘Fringe’ can be saved. Please watch the show live. If you DVR the show, please watch it on Friday. Overnight ratings include Live+SD, which is live viewing plus same-day DVR viewing, so if the overnights improve for ‘Fringe,’ then we have a great chance of getting a fifth season.

‘Fringe’ returns January 13, 2012 on FOX.