I was watching the Spurs vs. Lakers game on ABC when I heard one of the announcers give LOST a promo:

LOST is back Wednesdays at 9, 8 central on ABC. Last Wednesday 20 million people returned to the island, making this season’s premiere of LOST bigger than ever.

ABC also used similar wording in an on-screen promo. WTF!?

Better than ever? Perhaps. I caught a preview of the episode that airs this Wednesday at 9pm and loved it! But better is subjective, bigger isn’t.

I don’t really have a problem with the 20 million number. There are a number of ways ABC could’ve come up with it that are legitimate. There’s the total audience measurement — those who watched at least six minutes. They might have lumped in some numbers from the clip show that preceded it, the reruns from Saturday night, and for all I know, they lumped in some web viewing as well. But however they came up with the more than 20 million number doesn’t really matter. I buy that there’s a way to come up with that number. It’s totally misleading, but that’s OK, that’s commonplace and I don’t have a big problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is using that 20 million to say that this season’s premiere of LOST is bigger than ever. Any way that you could possibly calculate today’s viewing versus past viewing there is simply absolutely, positively no way that it could be true that LOST is bigger than ever.

LOST averaged 11.4 million viewers in the overnight numbers for the premiere — a series low for season premieres. And almost 5 million lower than the season four premiere, which up until now was the lowest-rated season premiere for LOST. In fact, the season four recap episode that aired before the season four premiere averaged more viewers than the season five premiere.

So is LOST bigger than ever? The implication was LOST was bigger than ever because of the number of people who watched the premiere. Again, there is absolutely no way that is true. But it’s very probably true that LOST costs more to produce than it ever has, so at least in that sense it is bigger.

If a gazillion people were watching the show (which I personally think would be really cool) and if more people than ever were watching I wouldn’t have a problem with “Hey, a gazillion people are watching. More people than ever!!!” with the implication that you should watch too. But since it’s actually not true, it rubs me the wrong way.

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Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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