OPINIONS DIFFER ON `LOST,' `HOUSEWIVES' OVERRUNS
As TiVo and even VCR users know, the phrase "hour-long drama" doesn't mean what it used to in the television universe. All season long, fans of several hit ABC dramas _ "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" in particular _ have complained that because their favorite shows have been known to end at a minute or two past the hour, they've missed crucial information, or at least crucial closing credit sequences.
At ABC's Television Critics Association press tour sessions over the weekend, it became clear that there are myriad reasons behind those minor overages which cause such frustration for so many.
"You know, sometimes it's based on creative and sometimes it's based on strategic," says ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson. "Sometimes the shows just run longer and it's hard to edit them down and we give the producers a minute or two. Sometimes it's to bridge... the commercial gap there and be a little more strategic with our schedule. (W)e don't do it on every show, there are opportunities where we think it makes sense."
For the most part, where it has made sense is when successful shows run into shows that need a little extra help. For example, "Desperate Housewives" has often run into the first couple minutes of the "Boston Legal" time period, hooking viewers into the David E. Kelley legal drama after programming on other networks has already begun. Expanding a hit show can also allow networks to sell slightly more ad space during a highly rated show, while slightly underselling ads in a show that lacks the same punch.
While the networks might see slightly inflated ratings or revenue, TiVo viewers are stuck with "conflict" warnings that prevent them from recording other shows after an extra-long drama. Viewers with other kinds of reports often find their episodes cut off at the end, missing any last second cliffhangers from a serialized drama.