For those of you who dismiss news of LOST’s wobbling ratings as inconsequential – you’re good, you don’t need to be here. For the rest, let’s take a closer look at the widely publicized ratings trickery and what it means – or better yet, doesn’t mean – for LOST’s future.
Most of the fuss seems to come from a lot of very creative (read that as ‘shady’) number reporting from a couple of networks, ABC and FOX. FOX is exploiting an overlap trick to inflate their numbers. The trick is, they run their programs over which earns them an artificial share at the turn of the hour or half hour. ABC will soon be doing the same with LOST, and in fact already did to some degree with their claim that 20-million viewers tuned in for LOST’s premiere, when the actual number of live viewers was somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 million. LOST posted its lowest numbers for a premiere, ever – yet LOST won the key demographic of 18-49, which is cool if you are selling advertising, which we are not. What does it all mean for us? Nothing.
There is a very good reason why we LOST fans shouldn’t obsess over the numbers – we are in love with the story, and practically none of us have a vested interest in buying or selling advertising during LOST. When it comes down to it, that’s what these numbers are all about – the data’s purpose in our world is to help determine the value of advertising real estate. As such, the nets scramble to find every way possible to skew the numbers in their favor – and when they do, the cynical media attacks, spotlighting the fevered attempts to jockey the data into the most profitable light as death throes, or corporate dishonesty.
Sure, in most cases the numbers have to work out favorably for a show to stay on the air, but in the case of LOST, a show with a world wide brand that includes merchandise, clothing, toys, video games, and DVDs, advertising sales are only one part of the profit equation. The bottom line is this. There are some great sites out there for making sense of the numbers and what their impact may be on your ‘other’ favorite shows – TvBytheNumbers comes to mind – but when it comes to LOST, there is simply no reason to fret from week to week. The fifth and sixth season are a done deal – Carlton and Damon have laid ink on it, and cashed the checks. The cast is under contract, and the studio is no doubt already thinking about new and innovative ways to market that final season. You can always count on we-cynical-bloggers to heap copious servings of hyperbole over things like diminishing ratings, negative reviews, and looming strikes – we’re a bunch of Wednesday’s children, I’ll admit it – but on this particular issue, no matter what you read, do not lose faith in LOST’s staying power. The sixth season is a lock. Sometimes you need to ignore the tourguides, and just enjoy the ride.