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Lost Faces Scheduling Issues

After taking a beating this season, ABC’s Lost experienced a slight up tick in the ratings last week. The 0.03 jump from the previous week was good enough to give network executives hope that the creative improvement that they have seen in their prized show lately will start translating into improved ratings heading into the May sweeps.

Throughout the season, original episodes of Lost have attracted lower ratings than last year. The serialized saga had been on a steady, weekly decline since coming back from a three-month hiatus that alienated many loyal viewers.

Following its return to 10 p.m. ET Wednesdays—an hour later than in the fall—ABC watched the ratings plummet from a 6.4 rating/15 share among adults 18-49 for the spring debut to a 4.9/13 by the ninth episode on April 4. So last week’s 5.2/14 turned out to be the best Lost news that network executives have seen in months.

But the upward trend will need to continue as they prepare to set the fall schedule next month.

To avoid the scheduling fiasco of the past few seasons, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson has indicated, Lost will run straight through next season with original episodes. A fall start would make it collide with the holidays, so odds-makers are betting that it will follow the same path of Fox’s 24, by airing January-May.

ABC says Lost is the most-recorded show on DVRs, but that’s a measurement count advertisers won’t consider. If the network wants to keep the franchise away from Fox’s American Idol and make affiliates happy by offering a decent lead-in to their late newscasts, it will need to continue airing it at 10.

That is why the network has made strengthening the 8-10 p.m. Wednesday block leading into Lost a top priority this development season. The drama has not been helped much by the assortment of weak comedies that have been playing there.

ABC scheduling chief Jeff Bader declined to comment on possible scheduling scenarios. But he will undoubtedly have his work cut out for him in the weeks ahead.