ABC Juggles 10 New Fall Shows, Bets On Different Marketing Strategy

PASADENA, CALIF. -- Ten new shows and one daring move with "Grey's Anatomy" has ABC rolling the dice in its efforts to move up the broadcast ratings ladder. "We know it's an aggressive schedule," Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, told TV writers at the Television Critics Association meeting. "We are in a rebuilding mode. There is a risk to it. To me, this is the best scenario."

With so many shows in tow, expect ABC to offer a different marketing scenario this year. In the past, the network only focused on a few shows. It was this strategy that ABC used in launching "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost."

"We have to do things differently," says Mike Benson, senior vice president of marketing, advertising, and promotion for ABC Entertainment. Benson would not go into detail, but said the network will look to use a multi-platform media strategy--Internet, mobile, and on-demand--to jump-start its fall marketing campaign.

ABC's new comedies could face a tougher marketing hurdle. None have comedy laugh tracks, nor are they set up as traditional multi-camera, in-studio sitcoms. Benson says this will be a challenge going into the new season.

Another challenge is Thursday night. McPherson was asked about CBS' characterization that it is the "underdog" on Thursday nights, now that ABC is scheduling "Grey's Anatomy" against CBS powerhouse "CSI." "It's interesting to see that Nina [Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment] is playing rope-a-dope," says McPherson. "They are the champions; there is no doubt. We hope to do some business there."

On another marketing issue--the Emmys--McPherson was astonished that ABC didn't get many top nominations for its shows, especially since the same programs were tapped in 2005. For example, McPherson was dismayed that "Desperate Housewives" was ignored, since many of its stars were nominated last year. "For none of those stars to be nominated this year, that's a problem," says McPherson. "Everyone would admit there are some odd nominations. Maybe the new blue-ribbon panel needs to be changed."

Does he have any predictions on who will win the ratings race next year? "Right now, it'll probably be a three-way horse race, and it doesn't matter," says McPherson. "It's just an ego thing. We all have parity." It comes down to how each network is sold to advertisers, he adds.

As with other networks' TCA executive sessions, questions were again asked about the viability of serialized dramas. McPherson says canceling a serialized drama before its natural conclusion remains a problem. This is what happened to ABC's "Invasion." "It's the difficult thing about serialized dramas," he says. "There was a loyal fan base for the show, though small. It raises the bar as to how good a serialized drama should be."

McPherson says that despite the big lead-in "Invasion" had from "Lost," it could not maintain enough "Lost" viewers. On the other hand, ABC decided to keep "What About Brian," which did well on Monday night without any lead-in support from other programs.

ABC admits that "Desperate Housewives" may have had a less-than-stellar creative year in its second season. But now that executive producer and creator Marc Cherry will get "behind the typewriter" again, "it'll get back to being the wicked comedy it is," says McPherson.

Next story loading loading..