ABC tap-danced around the network’s rough sledding this season at its upfront presentation that was long on touting the depth of Disney’s brands and the network’s innovations in digital media and data-gathering.
Jimmy Kimmel, as always, killed in his standup routine, which opened with “who’s ready for some dynamic ad insertion …” followed by a string of advertising buzzwords that underscore how complicated the landscape of viewing and measurement has become.
ABC ad sales chief Geri Wang even brought out her counterpart at ESPN, Edward Erhardt, to talk up the Disney/ABC pitch of reaching femmes with the broadcast network and men with the sports behemoth.
“Mars and Venus have aligned,” Wang said.
Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, delivered her last presentation in her exec role. She emphasized “the most electrifying transformation of television in its history” that is under way and the importance of recognizing the “viewer migration to mobile platforms. In this world every device can be a television. Smartphones, tablets and connected TVs are changing every aspect of our industry.”
She showed off enhancements coming to the Watch ABC live streaming service, including the ability for viewers to watch live events such as the Oscars from different camera angles, and an option where viewers can integrate second-screen social media activity onto the TV screen.
As Fox did on Monday, ABC reeled off stats showing much additional viewing is driven by DVR, VOD and online streaming of shows beyond the linear window. Wang touted midseason drama “Resurrection” as reaching 21.1 million viewers when all platforms are combined.
Wang noted that ABC is rolling out a test of a new measurement protocol designed to capture more of that non-linear viewing. That viewing is crucial to networks because it tends to draw the most desirable, younger affluent audiences.
ABC Entertainment Group prexy Paul Lee had plenty of stats at the ready — some of which were headscratchers. At one point he stated that ABC had been “No. 1 for the last four years” — a statement he had to retract a few minutes later. Kimmel even noted that he wondered what kind of “extra-long super collider” the network used to spin out its ratings stats.
Lee ran through most of ABC’s new series pickups, giving special showcase to Viola Davis starrer “How to Get Away with Murder” and “American Crime,” both dramas, and comedy “Black-ish” and “Galavant.”
The clip for “Black-ish,” starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne drew big laughs. Lee admitted that “Galavant,” a musical comedy fairy tale, is a flier but said he hoped it would be “Spamalot meets Princess Bride.”
Lee noted the high volume of minority actors on screen and minority creators behind the camera in this year’s slate. He said the success of “Scandal” has spurred ABC’s drive find more diverse voices.
“We set out to reflect America and we ended up unleashing a new wave of creativity,” Lee said.