LOST Ratings Improve for Fifth Straight Week
While it is not the gushing influx of viewers the network - or die hard fans - would like to see, LOST did manage to improve on its performance once more this week in the final numbers.  Particularly, LOST seems to be bringing a stronger base of viewers in the advertiser friendly 18-49 age group.  There is little doubt that ABC is anything less than committed to allowing the quirky island adventure to play out on their real-estate, but the continued improvement after a hiatus plagued with media bashing over the six-episode pod is a clear indication that viewers that were wooed away by a disenchanted press have started to come back, despite the time slot.   Rebuilding now is vital as LOST fans face a grueling eight-month hiatus between the finale of Season three and the beginning of Season Four of LOST, an arduous period that threatens to erode the fan base even further.

On the straight up statistical side of things, here is how LOST's Wednesday victory plays out:

LOST surged from its Lead-in to Win at 10pm in Viewers and Young Adults, Improving the Hour for ABC by 5.6 Million Viewers and by 120% in Adults 18-49.  LOST improved from its lead-in by 6.2 million viewers and by 104% in Adults 18-49, "Lost" won the 10 o'clock hour in Total Viewers (12.3 million) in Adults 18-49 (5.5/14). On all 5 weeks since moving into it new Wednesday 10 o'clock time period, LOST has ranked as the evening's No. 1 regularly scheduled scripted TV program in the key Adult 18-49 sales demographic.   In terms of its impact on the time slot in general,  LOSTcontinues to greatly improve the time period for ABC, growing the hour by 5.5 million viewers and 120% in Adults 18-49 from the same night last year (6.8 million & 2.5/7 on 3/8/06).

It is an interesting proposition with complexities that I can't claim to fully understand, but one thing seems certain:  ABC has wanted a healthy piece of the Wednesday 10:00pm est time slot for quite a while and for some reason LOST as a lead-in never seemed to help programs like Invasion, or The Nine, regardless of what logic would dictate.

In this thinking, the move to 10:00pm isn't necessarily motivated by the impact of American Idol as most thought originally.  It seems just about every network has given up on any time slots opposite Idol, but the move hardly had a positive impact on LOST's overall ratings.  Another item of interest that has evolved from the mysterious drop in viewers is whether it even exists.  The numbers do, after all, come from estimates produced by Nielson media which has not proven the DVR portion of its data yet.  Nielson is still the best at gathering 'live viewer' numbers, but since it attracts a discriminating base of viewers into its ranks it cannot necessarily represent the base of TV viewers that might not be as active in viewing at premiere time.  The ideal Nielson candidate watches live.

- Jon Lachons, BuddyTV Senior Writer