Michael Riley: Expanding Family offerings

Youth Impact Report 2011: Channeling Talent

Impact: Grew ABC Family’s lineup, with boffo “Switched at Birth” debut leading net to its strongest summer ever.
Next: “Jane by Design” debuts in January, with four more pilots on order: action drama “Intercept” and comedies “Bunheads,” “Baby Daddy” and “Village People.”
Causes: Delete Digital Drama campaign to stop cyberbullying and Feeding America.

When Michael Riley started at ABC Family in August 2010, momentum was already building with “Pretty Little Liars,” “Make It or Break It” and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Riley seized the opportunity to put more content into the pipeline, fast.

“We needed to strike while the iron was hot, and we wound up putting six pilots into production right away,” he says.

Five made it to series, marking the most ambitious original slate in the network’s history. Sudsy teen drama “Switched at Birth” launched as ABC Family’s biggest original series debut on record, joining “Liars” and “Secret Life” as the network’s “triple threat” — the summer’s top three scripted original series among millennials.

The Q3 additions of “The Lying Game” and telepic “Cyberbully” boosted ratings even higher, anointing ABC Family the No. 2 network among its core demo of females 12-34 and 18-34.

The success of gossipy dramas among ABC Family’s audience is no fluke: Girls love to talk. “We’re not afraid to address interesting elements that attract millennials, but we present it in a way that starts conversations,” Riley says.

But instead of happening in the cafeteria or the breakroom, those conversations are now taking place on Facebook and Twitter, where ABC Family claims 16 million fans and more than half a million followers.

“For millennials, social media really is the new water cooler,” says Riley, who is also implementing online, mobile, magazine and White House initiatives to deepen engagement across multiple platforms.

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