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Don’t Worry, LOST Won’t Get Cancelled (Even if the ratings suck)

By docarzt,

  Filed under: Lost News
  Comments: 37

lost-ratings-declineFor 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.

[poll id=”18″]

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.

  • I wouldn’t sweat it so much about the show being cancelled, but what WOULD concern me is that pressure may be put on the writers to alter the story to improve the ratings. Hopefully the ABC bigwigs acknowledge that Lost is a unique animal that MUST NOT be tampered with.

    • hooper01


      Lost star Matthew Fox covers the January/February 2009 issue of Details. Here’s what the 42-year-old actor opened up about:

      On Lost coming to an end: “Personally, it’s a relief…I owe this show a great amount, and I think it’s exceptionally good…[but] I am looking forward to the freedom that comes with not working on one project professionally.”

      On the Lost series finale: “This show started with a plane crash on an island in the South Pacific, and it’s going to have a very global and epic ending.”

      (I heard LOST will end in 2010… Read more in Details this month!)

  • Well said!

    The amount of money they make off the show is still significant. With such as deep story to the show, people are bound to drop off because of the complexity.

    LOST is the most downloaded and DVR’d show and I think that more than makes up for the amount of ‘live’ viewers.

    D&C always said they wanted the show to be about 5 seasons long, and we can all the the improvement to the show since the deal was signed in the middle of season 3.

    LOST will still go down as one of the most successful and masterful shows ever to be created.

  • Glenn

    They are still getting burned by the off again on again scheduling issues. Not knowing when it is going to be on is still the biggest issue I hear from my non-fan friends. If they can keep the “straight through” no-repeats for the next two seasons, I would imagine the ratings going up…

  • RodimusBen

    My question is, when you say Carlton and Damon have “cashed the checks,” do you mean that they have already been granted full funding for seasons 5 and 6? Because while I’ve never been concerned that LOST will be canceled before the intended series finale, I am concerned that their dropping ratings in combination with the sagging economy will result in ABC cutting the show’s funding sharply, inhibiting their ability to do on-location shooting, do special effects, and hire quality guest actors. That’s the only reason why I’ve cared about LOST’s ratings beyond just knowing how many other people are watching the show.

    Those special effects are gonna be important when that volcano explodes in the sixth season. I don’t want that visual to involve any baking soda whatsoever.

    • docarzt

      I doubt the budget has been sent – it was a figure of speech. I don’t think ABC will cut the budget. Hopefully, though, the economy will be on the upswing next year,

      • Even if the Budget is cut, it’s not like they can’t do Smokey without CGI. It is just black smoke after all. All they would need are a couple of strategically placed fans…

  • J

    I agree with Doc–worrying about LOST being canceled is insane. It’s one of the top 10 most popular scripted shows on TV, the most downloaded show on the internet, singlehandedly props up the ABC TV viewing device, and is one of the most popular DVD sets out there. If that doesn’t do it for you, this should:

    “We found that last season, the future of a show was nearly directly related to its adults 18-49 average viewers divided by its networks 18-49 average viewers. Many other factors may matter, but they all seemed to boil down to that one number. Last season, if a show had better than 92% of its network’s average 18-49 viewership (0.92 in our index) it was pretty safe, below that level it was in danger.”

    And what, you ask, is LOSTS’s number? Here it is:

    LOST ABC 6,626 3,560 1.86

  • James

    Does the fact that in many places they’ve been showing SEC basketball in place of LOST (and moving lost all the way down to 1:30am) have anything to do with the ratings?

    • Preempting Lost? That’s a travesty and it makes me sad for people living in those areas.

  • TorrentFreak

    I wonder what the number would be like if Torrent/Internet Downloads were included in these numbers 🙂

  • Good point. It’s important to remember how many people watch Lost online, download it from iTunes, wait for the seasons to come out on DVD , etc.

    Lost has staying power and will sell DVD’s for years to come in ways few TV shows will.

    Also, I expect the ratings to remain pretty consistent around 10 million for the entire season. It could even go up. The point is, by this point, the show has a dedicated crowd.

  • Losing a writer is more significant and important than losing ratings, in my opinion. Ratings are attached to profit in ways mentioned above while writers are quality control and losing them loses everyone.

  • clueless1der

    *shrug* They hate me anyway. I can’t even tell you the last time I didn’t ffwd through commericals. DVR has spoiled me. 😀

  • Blackadder

    A while back in an interview Matthew Fox pointed out that about 12 million people watched the pilot, and about 12 million people watch each episode. That’s the loyal base, and that’s who the cast and crew are trying to please. If more people want to watch, Fox said, that’s great. If not, then eff them. I couldn’t agree more.

  • “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. ”

    As a Star Trek fan that is a statement that TRULY annoys me. I never understood how Paramount (or CBS, as the case may be) decided one day: you know this huge franchise that sells t-shirts and dvds worldwide? yeah, let’s cancel that.

    In the case of LOST, these rules do not apply. It’s a lock for season 6. This thing goes way beyond the traditional first run market. Hell, I’ve seen the show back to back at least 5 times now and still got giddy when I hear they are releasing season 1 and 2 as BluRay this year.

    Season 6 is a given. Unless someone get’s hit by a bus, of course. 😉

  • running

    the point is – even 11 million is quite a LOT today. Sure, LOST ranking might be weaker and Lost producers may, in turn, have less money for the show – and the show can be put into different timeslots – but there are shows with much lower ratings, still being made up.

    Lost won’t be cancelled, that’s crazy.

  • Barabas

    Lost has turned into another soapie like “Bold and Beautiful” et al. No wonder the rating are falling. Who the heck is writing scripts for it now? It is just pathetic to see a formerly good movie die. It is banal, boring and brainless. All there is left is who is whose sister, or brother, or mother, or father. Sad.

    • Then who is Jacob and how did I miss that episode?

      • Barabas

        Jack’s father 🙂 Is he really his father and someone else’s father (like Claire, Richard, Desmond or whoever else) and does he have a twin brother with whom he was separated at birth? One-two more episodes like that and the ratings will crumble. Bring the good writers back!!!

  • Anyone writing that Lost’s ratings are failing is an idiot. Period. For one thing, they’re three years too late: it was over the course of season two in which the ratings dropped the most. And if you wanted to talk about a noticeable dip, you should’ve talked about it when Season 3’s “Not in Portland” and “Flashes Before Your Eyes” aired — when the show dropped from 15 million viewers to around 12.

    Throughout season four, ratings were consistently in the 10.5-12 million range. And now, in season five, every episode aired so far has nabbed a very consistent 11 million. So why are people trying to make this a story now? It’s actually the opposite — Lost has leveled out and become consistent again. Anybody trying to fearmonger is just misinformed.

    Three more things to say: (1) Even at 11 million, Lost is still consistently in the top 20 shows of the week. (2) DVR adds about 20% to each episode of Lost — so there are actually 13-14 million viewers each week, which is unheard of for a serial drama in its fifth season. (3) The show trounces competition in the 18-45 demographic, which is the only demographic advertisers care about, and thus the only demographic ABC care about. (It’s why The Office is considered a hit when it gets HALF the viewers of something like NCIS.)

    What does all this add up to? Not news, that’s for sure. Point and laugh at anybody trying to spin it any other way.

  • Mac

    As long as their ratings don’t include the number 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, or 42, I won’t be concerned.

  • its crazy that its even a thing. i think the true lost fans which are around that 11 mill will watch it till end.

  • amun

    we don’t worried, 😉

  • DeeDee

    The ratings also don’t reflect the number of individuals, like myself, that watched Season 5’s premier and every episode since then at a local movie theater or friend’s house. The theater I went to was PACKED, as was Season 4’s grand finale! That means that at least 200 people were watching on the same screen instead of at their home. I imagine lots of people now watch LOST with friends or at a local theater.

  • Severian

    I can’t honestly reason why ratings for Season 4 and 5 would be nearly half of Seasons 1 and 2. Sometimes, it feels like the people behind reviews of almost every entertainment medium have next to no idea what they’re talking about, it’s just a soapbox for their (undeserved) opinion.

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