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Can the Muppets Save Disney and ABC?

By Rick Munarriz - Sep 16, 2015 at 7:00PM

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The media giant is hoping that a reboot of a classic series will help its struggling network.

Source: Disney.

Hope springs eternal for the major media networks this time of year, but Disney's (DIS 3.51%) ABC is taking a big bet on one of the shows that it will debut for the fall season next week. It will be something old, something new, something borrowed, something green when The Muppets makes a triumphant return to primetime television on Tuesday night.

Disney shares have come under fire as a result of the meandering ways of its media networks division. Disney stock plunged 15% last month after posting disappointing quarterly results that included a sequential dip in ESPN subscribers and a drop in ad revenue at ABC. The Muppets can't save ESPN -- not yet, anyway -- but it can go a long way in helping woo viewers back to ABC.

The Muppets may or may not resonate with millennials that make up the juicy demographics group for advertisers, but it should score with older viewers who remember the show's initial primetime incarnation. However, don't dismiss the show's chances at proving magnetic to younger audiences who weren't around during the original The Muppet Show run in the late 1970s.

In a brilliant move, Disney put out a promotional video for The Muppets earlier this year. Filmed in mockumentary style -- think along the lines of The Office or Spinal Tap -- the clip proved viral. 

The video was a hit, helping pad the franchise's standing in social media. There are more than 495,000 subscribers to The Muppets' channel on YouTube, and that's nothing compared to the nearly 6.4 million followers on the leading social networking website. 

This isn't just a new show on ABC. Disney acquired The Muppets franchise from creator Jim Henson's estate in 2004. There have been a couple of movies since then. There's a long-standing Muppets 3-D attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney California Adventure.

However, that's child's play compared to the way that the House of Mouse has milked its more recent Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm acquisitions. That could change if The Muppets is a hit. Between the merchandising opportunities and existing attractions that just happen to be at its least visited Disney World and Disneyland resort theme parks, it's not just a boost to the moribund ratings that are at stake here. 

It's time to play the music. It's time to light the lights.

Editor's note: Incorrect ratings data has been removed from this article.

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