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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 4, 2010

'Lost' 2-hour finale brings advertising windfall for KITV

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

"Lost" has an additional attraction to Hawai'i residents because the popular series is produced here.

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The television hit "Lost" is turning out to be found money for local ABC network affiliate KITV.

The station is charging $5,000 for 30-second commercials to be run during the show's two-hour finale set for May 23. So far it's sold six of the 10 spots ABC is giving it and expects to sell the remaining slots soon.

"It's a unique opportunity for advertisers and they certainly get that so far," said Bill Gaeth, KITV vice president of sales. "It will be a one-time opportunity."

The show is winding down after generating huge viewership during its six seasons on the air. While interest has dwindled somewhat from its debut, the show and its reruns are still seen weekly by more than 10 million people. Some viewers have an almost cult-like devotion to the one-hour drama.

The finale is expected to pull big numbers and will be one of the centerpieces of ABC's May sweeps strategy. The show is being moved from it's Tuesday slot to a Sunday night when more people are home. Typically large television events are run on Sundays, such as the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards.

That type of big splash envisioned for the finale and ABC is basically making Sunday's prime-time hours a "Lost" extravaganza. The final episode will be preceeded by a one-hour recap and then followed by a special "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

"It's very smart," said Marc Berman, senior television editor for MediaWeek.

"They're making it event television and they're making a whole night. It isn't every day they have this opportunity so they're going to take advantage of it."

Berman is a "Lost" fan and will be watching the show's conclusion. Other fans will be tuning in and there's talk of people holding "Lost" viewing parties, just the way they've done for other big television finales.

Here, the fans may have a special devotion given the show's filming on O'ahu. Many residents have run into some of the ensemble cast at stores or know someone who has.

"My sense is that even though it's an ABC show, many locals here kind of consider it a local show," Gaeth said.

Ryan Ozawa is a Mililani-based blogger who has an almost fanatical devotion to the show. He said he and his wife, Jennifer, won't be joining anyone for a viewing party and will be quietly watching the finale.

"The thing for us is that "Lost" is a show that needs analysis and thought," he said, explaining the couple wants silence as they watch. They even analyze how the producers approach reruns of the prior-week's repeated episodes and will do the same when the one-hour lead-in comes on before the finale.

"We take notes and all sorts of stuff. It's more of a study hall to us."

The monk-like devotion notwithstanding, Ozawa expects to be brought in on many water-cooler talks on the day following the show's conclusion. He thinks some people who aren't familiar with "Lost" will tune in just so they can join the post-game discussions.

That's the kind of thing that KITV banked on in raising advertising rates from the about $3,000 per 30-second spot it charges during normal episodes. Nationally, AdAge reported that ABC is asking upward of $900,000 for 30-second commercials during the finale.

Gaeth said the show could draw as many as 175,000 adult viewers in Hawai'i, or two to two and a half times the normal audience. That kind of audience and their demographics is drawing in advertisers.

KITV expects to have no problem selling out the remaining spots.

Gaeth said fast-food chains in particular like the age groups drawn to "Lost." Four of the six spots sold for the finale are to such chains, though Gaeth declined to identify them.

The Harris Agency, a Honolulu advertising firm, already has jumped into the mix for one of its clients. Media Director Kathleen Herbst said she snapped up one of the 30-second spots given the show's popularity with people 18 to 49 years old.

"I'm one of those fast-food companies who's in there," she said, explaining "Lost" is extremely popular in Hawai'i.

"You have more viewership in any finale show. You're going to have big numbers."

Berman said the viewer's demographics and "Lost's" popularity among a younger adult audience make it a good vehicle for selling cool clothing, cars and fast food.

"It's a very, very advertiser-friendly show," he said. He said that comes despite the show's legendary complexity, complete with confusing twists, flashbacks, flash-forwards, alternative timelines and twists.

He said that's part of the charm of the show, which he said helped redefine television with its own rules.

"It's really a shame it's ending."

Berman said he once worked with a cable network to help decipher the show, chronicling "Lost" during a season by taking notes and closely watching each show.

"I still have no idea of what's going on," said Berman, who is based in New York. He expects that to continue.

"I can guarantee you it's going to end and we're still not going to know what happened."