Does anybody else watch the show on the Fox website? (I typically do, since I miss about half the episodes live due to previous commitments.) If so, am I right in assuming that the number at the bottom right of each episode's listing is the number of hits the episode has gotten? I ask because the numbers show a striking upswing in viewership in comparison to the decrease in live ratings. To give a sample: Episode 10, "Haunted," currently has 2646 views, which is comparable to the numbers seen in a lot of the back episodes before it (they tend to range from 2500-5000 usually). Episode 11 ("Briar Rose"), however, has 17322 at the moment- which is, what, over a 600% increase in online viewership?
Oh, but it gets better, too. At the moment the finale numbers are sitting at a whopping 45,107 for the Fox site. (And that's not including Hulu or DVR or anything.) Suffice it to say that in the latter part of the season, the online ratings are more than doubling- much more. Demographically, I find this unsuprising- Joss gained a strong online fanbase with "Dr. Horrible," and stereotypically the geeky fan base (who tend to be the ones watching cult sci-fi) is an internet-oriented culture. With the show on Friday night at 9, a time when most people are out doing things rather than watching TV, I would not be surprised if a lot of people miss it live like I do and catch up via online outlets. I think the series started to shine around this time, and people started to get hooked and watch more often. They just didn't watch live.
Of course, there's a genuine possibility that the numbers on the site mean nothing of the sort, and I've made something of a fool of myself by assuming that they meant a significant ratings boost and gotten all excited. I certainly hope that's not true, though, because if there's currently an online viewer increase that's almost as significant as the live viewer decrease, then that's something worth taking note of. And if the networks don't pay attention to that (which would be ridiculous since the numbers are coming from viewers on their very own website, not an outside host), they're doing it wrong, plain and simple.
So that's my (hopefully optimistic) first contribution to the community! I can't wait to browse around more than I already have. :)