‘Ghost’ embraces Fridays

CBS paranormal series not afraid of lower ratings bar

“Ghost Whisperer” has taken the Friday night timeslot and turned it into a solid five-year home.

While other series have shied away from an evening where shows are often ratings challenged, “Ghost Whisperer” team and its fans have embraced and thrived in the timeslot.

It turns out many find “Ghost Whisperer” and its neighboring show “Medium” the TV equivalent of comfort food, and appropriate for end-of-the-work-week viewing.

Says CBS scheduling topper Kelly Kahl: “A show like ‘Ghost Whisperer’ is a little bit escapist and really speaks to people who want to sit down and be entertained at the end of a long week. In this case, it’s the perfect time period.”

What “Ghost Whisperer” and “Medium” also have in common is strong leading women. Both Jennifer Love Hewitt and Patricia Arquette portray proactive, intelligent femmes who aren’t wallflowers and will mix it up with villains, or even supernatural opponents.

In the case of “Ghost Whisperer,” exec producer Kim Moses says, “I believe women are devoted viewers when it comes to television drama. We’ve always developed shows with an eye for strong women who are rule breakers, are empowered and have something to say. We feel women respond to that.”

Moses and exec producing partner Ian Sander were not intimidated when “Ghost Whisperer” received a Friday night timeslot. CBS president Leslie Moonves assured them, “We’re going to take back Friday night,” and, armed with his confidence, they created the Total Engagement Experience, a multiplatform strategy to promote the show.

Sander says, “We see the show as the most important component of the entertainment experience: the Internet, publishing and music. We believe the job of the producer is to deliver the show and deliver eyeballs.”

“It was a great training ground in moving into the 21st century and learning who was going to watch what and on what platform,” Moses says. “We knew if people tuned in, they would come back and wanted to engage them on other platforms to drive them to the show.”

“Ghost Whisperer” is averaging 9.1 million viewers this season, down from the previous season; the execs are always tinkering with storylines as well as communicating with the fanbase to figure out just the right recipe to please both themselves and their core aud. The ratings bar for Fridays is lower, but the creatives aren’t willing to settle.

“When you say there’s less pressure, I’m not so sure that’s true,” says Sander. “We never rest on how we’ve done.” Adds Moses: “If there’s a dip in the ratings, we check why in the chatter. If the ratings spike, we know we’re doing something special. We know ratings matter.”

Like most nets, CBS is quick to check plus-3 and plus-7 viewers for a better evaluation of its audience, and “Ghost Whisperer” does see a strong increase in viewers days after the original 8 p.m. Friday airing.

“As a scheduler, there’s no greater luxury than having a show you know you can depend on week in and week out,” Kahl says. “‘Ghost Whisperer’ has done that for us with amazing consistency. They’re right up around 10 million viewers every year, and that’s not something you find on TV very often.”

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