LOS ANGELES--The alphabet is hoping that absence will make the Lost fan's heart grow fonder.
ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson, speaking July 18 at the TV Critic's Association press tour in Pasadena, California, said that Lost will air next season without repeats. Instead, the castaway show will come back to the fall schedule with six episodes, then break for 13 weeks while ABC runs the new Taye Diggs series Daybreak. In February, Lost will return with an unbroken block of episodes.
"We listened to the audiences and felt this was the best way to address the issue of repeats," he said. "We'll have to spend some money and market it aggressively to let the audience know it's back."
Coming back in February puts Lost up against American Idol, which put a dent in the island-mystery's ratings this past season. When season five of Idol premiered in January, Lost ratings dipped 20 percent.
"I think that if you have two good shows in the same time slot, the ratings have shown that the audience is there. They can both survive and thrive," he said. "A lot of it was due to what the producers could deliver. The production cycle for 22 episodes was just too long."
On Friday, Lost show creator Abrams signed two separate contracts--a deal with Warner Bros. studios to produce new TV shows and a deal with Paramount (where Abrams directed Mission: Impossible: III) to write and direct more films. The combined deals are rumored to be worth between $60 and $68 million.
McPherson said that at season's end, Abrams' departure will be an issue, but this season he is working on the show in a big way.
"This year, he is back 100 percent. He is writing, he is even directing some episodes," McPherson said. "Last season it was tough, he did what he could but he was away doing MI3. This year, he is back, working on the show full time."
McPherson conceded that "down the road, [Abrams' involvement] might become more of a question."
McPherson expressed gratitude toward Abrams, who has given ABC the hit spy show Alias, Lost, the solid What About Brian, and the upcoming Six Degrees.
"Frankly, he has been an amazing part of my career," he said. "I thank him for that."