‘LOST’ & FOUND
ABC’S hit serial “Lost” seems to be losing steam and viewers are blaming frequent repeats of the complicated castaway drama.
On the flip side, “24,” an equally sophisticated thriller, continues to grow in its fifth year.
It’s because “24’s” network, Fox, shows the entire season straight through – no reruns ever.
“The results over the past two seasons have been gratifying,” says Fox scheduling guru Preston Beckman. “But they’ve only been gratifying because ’24’ is phenomenal.”
Since Fox began airing “24” – which stars Kiefer Sutherland as an anti-terrorist government agent – with no repeats the audience for the show has grown each year, a rare occurrence with any show that has been on TV for five seasons.
In 2003, the show averaged about 10 million viewers. By 2004, when it began to air straight through it drew roughly 12 million. And this year, it has joined the elite group of TV dramas in the to 10 -averaging more than 14 million viewers per show.
“It was a huge leap of faith,” says Beckman. “We hoped the move would result in higher ratings and fortunately we were right. Usually by the fourth season these things are beginning to sag.”
“Lost” meanwhile, was drawing a phenomenal 18 million viewers per show last year – its debut season.
But has since dropped to about 12 million this year – and repeats are drawing only about 10 million.
Both show are serials, meaning one show picks up where the last left off.
But watercooler chatter that seems so important to TV shows these days has all but died for “Lost.”
“What they are doing makes no sense,” wrote one frustrated “Lost” fan on alt.tv.lost, one of the many Internet group sites devoted to discussing “Lost.” “They should have done what ’24’ does every season. No breaks in the episodes just show every episode in order. ‘Lost’ is not a stand alone series so why treat it like it is!”
The answer, say program execs at both networks, is about the bottom line.
“When you have an asset like ‘Lost’ you have to make the most of it,” an ABC spokeswoman says. “It would be a luxury to schedule it straight through.”
The rub is that the TV season is generally 36 weeks long, but in order to keep TV shows turning a profit at studios and networks, only 22 episodes are produced each year. And for ABC – which is slowly rebuilding its schedule with hit dramas like “Gray’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” – it would be a turnoff for advertisers if they were told that any of these shows would not be returning until January.
ABC has also tried the programming strategy in the past with series like “NYPD Blue” and “Alias” – without much success.”I certainly don’t think it’s helping them [with viewers],” says Horizon Media’s TV analyst Brad Adgate. ‘
“Both ’24’ and ‘Lost’ have very loyal audiences who follow each show week to week. I definitely think there’s some frustration when you get constant repeats and premeptions.”
‘LOST’ & FOUND