ABC Ends Season With Some Gains, Focus On Event Programming

LOS ANGELES -- Like other networks, ABC witnessed another difficult broadcast season with audiences slipping away from broadcast networks, heading to other TV-video platforms. But the network scored some improvements.

Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment Group, speaking to the Television Critics Association meeting here, said ABC made gains with 10 p.m. Thursday drama show “Scandal;” late-night talker “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” after its January move to 11:35 p.m. weeknights, is pulling in growing amounts of young 18-34 viewers; and Friday nights continued to find success with its reality-business competition show, “Shark Tank,” as well as comedies “Last Man Standing” and “The Neighbors."

Looking to push more “event”-type programming, ABC is pushing out a special week-long effort for its Friday night “Shark Tank” reality show franchise, starting on Sunday, September 8, which leads in the show's season premiere on September 20.



And not just with its more fringe TV shows, but for its big franchises like "Dancing with the Stars," the show is being reduced to a one-night, two-hour show per week -- which includes competition and results: "We really wanted to focus and eventize ‘Dancing with the Stars'," says Lee.

Earlier in the week, ABC had concluded its upfront advertising selling process, with 7% to 8% price gains on the cost per thousand viewers [CPMs], according to media executives close to the company. ABC's total volume gains were a bit lower than last year's results, where the network pulled in around $2.4 billion.

In this past 2012-2013 season, ABC landed just behind CBS in the 18-49 demographic with a 1.8 average rating -- in third place when looking at the C3 Nielsen metric (commercial ratings plus three days of time-shifting) -- down 10% from the season before.

But Fox -- number one in 18-49 C3 viewers (a 2.1 rating) -- and CBS, number two in 18-49 C3 viewers (a 2.0 rating), didn't have it much better. Fox was down 16% versus the year before, and CBS was off 13%. Only NBC was up -- 6%. But it remained in last place with an average 1.7 rating. In midseason, ABC rose to number one in 18-49 C3 viewers when it came to non-sports prime-time programming.

ABC continues to claim number-one status as the women 18-49 network through its efforts in prime-time serials and soap dramas like “Revenge,” “Nashville,” and “Grey's Anatomy.” But looking at new shows -- “Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” (8 p.m. on Tuesdays) and “The Goldbergs” (9 p.m. on Tuesdays) -- Lee says ABC is looking to expand, with these “four quadrant” shows, appealing not just to its core women 18-49 viewers, but to men and women young and old.

When asked about future competitors -- like Netflix, who are starting up their own original programming -- Lee said: “Competition is very good... competition moving around helps keep us on our toes.”

Concerning the future of TV overall, Lee says when he was recently in Belfast, Ireland many people came up to him talking passionately about U.S. television. This is good news, says Lee: “We don't give ourselves enough credit.”

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