Will ABC's New Shows Take it From Zero to Hero?

The network has slipped to last place for average viewership. Can it reverse its fortunes with its new development slate?

Aimee Duffy
Aimee Duffy
Apr 22, 2014 at 12:47PM
The Business

Each May, advertisers gather in New York to buy airtime from television networks at the annual upfronts market. Last year, Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC declined to sell the majority of its commercial space at once, which is customary, and instead finalized deals through July, ultimately pulling in between $2.1 billion and $2.4 billion in commitments from advertisers . ABC will present its new lineup on May 13, and look to improve upon those numbers.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Current winners
ABC has some solid ratings-earners on its schedule right now. Dancing With the Stars was Monday's most watched show the last three weeks, pulling in 14.1 million viewers last week . Comedic hit Modern Family continues to anchor Wednesday night, consistently winning the evening with its original broadcasts (as opposed to reruns) and even topping American Idol last week with 9 million viewers compared to Idol's 8.9 million . Grey's Anatomy is having its best season since 2009-2010 and is up 5% in total viewers from this time last year . Political thriller Scandal and freshman comedy The Goldbergs are proving to be fierce competitors in their time slots as well.

Despite the success of these shows, ABC is falling behind the other three major networks in total average viewers this season to date:


Average Viewers (millions)









Source: Nielsen Media Research, as of April 8. 

With ratings averages not going its way, ABC will need a strong schedule to present this May. While Fox has already made series commitments to several programs, ABC has not been aggressive with early orders. However, the network does have some interesting projects on its slate.

The new class
In comedy, Kevin Hart's semi-autobiographical half-hour Keep it Together is generating buzz . The project stars Romany Malco (not Hart himself, who has a recurring role) and follows a divorced husband and wife trying to become friends for the sake of their children . In a completely different vein, the network also has Galavant, a musical comedy written by Dan Fogelman (Tangled; Crazy, Stupid, Love) and featuring original music by Academy-Award winning composer Alan Menken.

Like all networks, ABC has a relationship comedy on its slate. Irreversible is based on the popular Israeli format, Bilti Hafich, and follows the ups and downs of a married couple. Friends fans will be happy to know that David Schwimmer stars and serves as a producer .

On the drama side, ABC did make a 10-episode order for a limited series titled Astronaut Wives Club that is set to air mid-season 2014-2015. The project is based on the book by Lily Koppel. Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of the women whose husbands were pioneers during the US Space Race .

ABC's fall lineup may include yet another Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal) project. Rhimes is executive producing what could be another hit for the network, How to Get Away With Murder, a legal thriller starring Viola Davis (The Help ). Another likely winner will be Secrets & Lies, starring Ryan Phillippe, which ABC ordered to pilot and agreed to pay a penalty if it did not purchase 10 additional episodes. Secrets & Lies follows a man (Phillippe) who discovers the dead body of a small boy and becomes the chief suspect for his murder .

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Bottom line
ABC's slate is intriguing, to say the least. The network certainly has the potential to build a lineup mixed with new ideas and reliable names that could help it improve its lackluster ratings, and more importantly, woo advertisers. In ABC's case, there is nowhere to go but up.