ABC has all but unplugged the life support machinery for one of its newest dramas, “Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital,” after four weeks of hemorrhaging ratings.
ABC said Monday it would move the struggling program next week to 9 p.m. on Thursdays for the remainder of its run, essentially throwing it to the ratings wolves opposite two of television’s biggest hits — “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” on CBS and “The Apprentice” on NBC.
Initially slotted against NBC’s “Law & Order” juggernaut at 10 p.m Wednesdays, “Kingdom Hospital” has been one of ABC’s biggest disappointments this season as the network struggles to rebuild its prime-time schedule.
The highly promoted 13-part drama from prolific horror writer Stephen King was touted by ABC as a key to its mid-season comeback strategy, and top executives of ABC’s parent, The Walt Disney Co., have been under fire from shareholders who claim they have mismanaged the company.
One of the sore spots cited by the dissidents — led by company namesake Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy Disney, and his business partner Stanley Gold — is the low-rated ABC network.
Based on a Danish miniseries and King’s own experiences of being hospitalized after a near-fatal accident, “Kingdom Hospital” tells the story of a famous artist who wakes from a coma with telepathic powers in a haunted hospital.
But after a promising two-hour debut March 3, the thriller has declined steadily in both overall audience and the key demographic of viewers aged 18 to 49, the group most networks use as a benchmark of prime-time success.
Last week, the show averaged just 5.6 million viewers overall and a meager 2.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic, down 57 percent in both categories from its premiere.
ABC plans to air a fifth episode of “Kingdom Hospital” this Wednesday before moving the show to its new Thursday berth next week. In its place next Wednesday, ABC will launch a new edition of romance reality show “The Bachelor” with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. The following week, April 14, “Extreme Makeover” will move into the 10 p.m. Wednesday slot.
ABC has been on the ratings ropes since its onetime monster hit game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” collapsed from overexposure two years ago.