ABC upfront analysis: Lots of gambles
The network is taking many chances. Not all will pay off.
May 16, 2013
More than any other network, ABC has to work hard to sell its new fall shows because it so frequently rips up its schedule.
That will be true once again this fall when, for the second time in four years, the network programs a night of entirely new shows, a huge risk, and brings back only two of last year’s new programs.
Buyers agree that many of ABC’s new shows have potential, including “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” comedies “Super Fun Night” and “The Goldbergs,” and soap “Betrayal.”
But over the past year viewers haven’t seemed interested in sampling any new broadcast shows, no matter how good they are. That makes this ambitious schedule an even harder sell.
“ABC has lots of new stuff for fall. Where and how do they promote all of it?” says David Scardino, entertainment specialist at RPA, a Santa Monica, Calif., agency.
There will be eight new shows on the fall schedule, including four on Tuesday nights. ABC has already begun showing previews for several of them, and it will use sister networks such as ESPN and ABC Family to promote the shows as well.
But it’s still a very bold undertaking for a network whose ratings continue to slide.
Another concern for media buyers is the deep live-plus-same-day-DVR-playback ratings declines seen by many of ABC’s second-year shows, including “Once Upon a Time,” “Revenge” and “Suburgatory,” an issue that is not addressed with this new schedule.
ABC even decided to go ahead with a “Time” spinoff despite the big dips for the original, and it will be interesting to see if the network can leverage “Time” at all to launch the new show.
Here’s a look at the other highs and lows of ABC’s schedule:
Best new show
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has a huge amount of momentum behind it with the success of “The Avengers,” the movie it was spun off of, and “Iron-Man 3.” Though the trailer isn’t as witty or engaging as those movies, director Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dollhouse”) has a good track record for making entertaining shows.
Worst new show
“Trophy Wife” has bad jokes and a silly concept. Buyers couldn’t stifle their groans when the trailer played.
Best scheduling move
Cutting back “Dancing with the Stars” from two nights to one. The show has always felt bloated, and with ratings falling, it’s better to take up just two hours of the schedule rather than three.
Most puzzling scheduling move
Putting an all-new lineup on Tuesday. That’s a huge risk, even with 8 p.m. anchor “S.H.I.E.L.D.” considered a likely hit. If the rest of the shows bomb, ABC will be rebuilding nearly from scratch.
Bubble show that should have survived
The bright and energetic comedy “Happy Endings” did well when it had a decent lead-in. It deserved better than to be shipped to Friday night and then axed. Here’s hoping a cable network picks it up.
Returning show that should have been axed
“The Neighbors” improved creatively this year but it still isn’t good. And with the move to Friday night it will undoubtedly struggle.
Overall fall schedule grade
If everything works, ABC could have a terrific fall. But this is television, and everything rarely works. The network is taking a lot of chances, and that may result in even more viewership loss come fall.
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