Pasadena, Calif. -- In the midst of some overall prime-time audience erosion, ABC had some unexpected fall successes -- several dramas and a comedy. There is more variety to come, especially some provocatively titled shows.
Speaking at the Television Critics Association meeting here, Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment Group, said: "We
thought we had a very strong fall."
In particular, he is happy to see Wednesday become a real destination for comedy for viewers "and our advertisers." Adding to its strong comedy lineup led by "Modern Family," new comedy "Suburgatory" did well at 8:30 p.m.
Another comedy on Tuesday night -- "Last Man Standing." featuring Tim Allen -- also earned a place on the schedule with decent ratings, which Lee says will push ABC to do more multicamera comedies. Other network executives have talked recently about reviving this older comedy style for new shows.
The new Wednesday 10 p.m. drama "Revenge" -- as well as returning 10 p.m shows "Castle" (on Mondays) and "Body of Proof" (on Tuesdays) did well enough to boost ABC's fortunes in the time period, a place where viewers increasingly are watching time-shifted programming. "I believe we are the only network that has grown at 10 p.m." says Lee.
But ABC's real story came from a big, somewhat unexpected result on Sunday night at 8 p.m. with fantasy drama "Once Upon a Time" -- regularly averaging high near-4 ratings among 18-49 viewers and scoring the best results among all entertainment prime-time shows on the night.
ABC will be launching two midseason shows soon that will tease viewers: "GCB" and "The B... in Apartment 23." Both shows allude to the word 'bitch' -- athough Lee insists the reference to "GCB" originally was for the previous working title "Good Christian Belles."
"What I'm hoping is that it will pique people's interest,"
Marla Provencio, executive vice president of marketing for ABC Entertainment, says the online marketing for both those shows will be a bit more provocative -- especially in grabbing young viewers who inhabit those digital platforms. "GCB" is based on a novel called "Good Christian Bitches."
Lee comes from cable channel ABC Family and says the broadcast network -- like cable network programs -- will be doing even more to spread out the debuts of new shows, given the increasing competitive makeup of networks. New shows starting up throughout the spring include "The River" (February 7); "GCB" (March 4); "Missing" (March 15); "Scandal" (April 5), "Don't Trust the B... in Apartment 23" (April 11).
ABC's "Academy Awards" broadcast in late February will be the launching promotional ground for these new shows -- especially for "GCB" and "Missing," which start right after the Oscar show.
For the season so far, ABC has been down a couple of percentage points among 18-49 viewers -- depending on the specific Nielsen measure. Some notable audience declines have appeared in shows like "Dancing with the Stars," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives."