Jeff Zucker owes Steve McPherson a thank-you note.
In an unexpected twist, the runaway success of ABC’s Wednesday hit “Lost” seems to be giving NBC’s “The West Wing” a noticeable ratings lift. And on Sunday nights, the smash that is “Desperate Housewives” seems to be funneling viewers into the Peacock’s “Crossing Jordan.”
So what gives?
Call in the TV version of Reaganomics: A rising tide lifts all boats. The Alphabet’s twin drama hits are bringing so many new viewers to the small screen that they’re producing a huge halo effect.
Unfortunately for ABC, the halo effect isn’t limited to other Alphabet shows.
Unlike years past, when viewers would stick with a channel for an entire evening, auds today no longer practice network monogamy. That’s why many of the millions of viewers checking out the latest antics of Bree and the other “Housewives” don’t feel compelled to stay tuned for the courtroom shenanigans on “Boston Legal.”
As luck would have it, NBC — while getting its butt kicked by both “Housewives” and “Lost”– just happens to have shows at 10 p.m. Sunday and 9 p.m. Wednesday that are compatible with the audience profile of the ABC hits they follow.
Femmes who dig the take-charge “Housewives,” but aren’t as into the frat boy antics of “Boston Legal,” seem to be finding comfort watching crime-solver Jill Hennessy on “Crossing Jordan.” So far this season, “Jordan” is regularly improving on its “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” lead-in — something that rarely happened before ABC got “Desperate.”
Likewise, fans of quality dramas haven’t found “The Bachelor” a good follow-up to “Lost” on Wednesdays. Early in the season they seemed to be flocking to repeats of “CSI” on CBS, but now that the Eye has launched its regular sitcom lineup, ABC auds seem to be checking out “The West Wing” — boosting a show that, at the end of last season, seemed all but dead in the ratings.
ABC execs aren’t fretting too much over the possibility that they might inadvertently be helping the competish.
For one thing, none of NBC’s Wednesday or Sunday shows comes close to matching the ratings of the ABC hits. And, despite giving “Jordan” a boost, “Housewives” has helped “Boston Legal” even more, dramatically improving upon the ratings “The Practice” earned in the slot last year.
Even better for ABC: Now that it knows “Lost” and “Housewives” are hits, it can get down to the business of developing compatible shows to pair them with next season.