ABC Improves Season, Lee Optimistic About Future

Beverly Hill, Calif.-- ABC had a more consistent 2013-2014 season in terms of viewership than other networks, as well as some growth when it comes to long-term time shifted viewing.

ABC was down 5% to a 2.1 Nielsen 18-49 live plus seven days of time-shifting viewing -- with some other networks sinking much lower when looking at a comparison of adult-scripted programming.

Overall, NBC and Fox were No. 1 and No. 2 among this key viewing group with a 2.7 and a 2.5 respectively -- helped in large part from sports programming. CBS was at a 2.4 for the season.

But when taking out all sports -- which is typically bought separately by TV marketers -- the race was much closer -- CBS earning a 2.3 rating among 18-49 viewers; NBC and ABC each had a 2.2 number; and Fox had a 2.0 rating.

In speaking at the Television Critics Association meeting here, Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment Group, expects bigger things: “We got real building blocks on every night.” He adds when looking at just adult-scripted programming, ABC has grown faster than any other network when looking at Nielsen live plus seven days worth of viewing.

Concerning its big live reality singing competition show “Rising Star,” Lee says, initially, “we were a little disappointed in the numbers.” Some of this had to do with the difficulty in selling the concept of “Stars” as a truly live show. Through four episodes the show has earned a Nielsen live plus same day 1.3 rating/4 share among 18-49 viewers.

But Lee believes “Stars” is a part of “revolution,” where reality competition shows in the future will have more focus on real-time viewer voting in determining what succeeds and fails.

Questions for Lee arose concerning TCA comments by Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment’s comments at the TCA earlier that cable can take more risks than broadcast networks in doing darker and more interesting subject matters, which, in turn, can gain big honors like the Emmys.

In response, Lee said: “I would put any of our shows against cable.”

But he admitted there are limitations: “Sometimes, limitations can provide you with better storytelling.” Lee says one big example is Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” and the upcoming “How to Get Away with Murder.”
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