ABC Off on Another Manhunt for Fall

The Alphabet hasn’t fallen as much as the leaders this season, but it needs to broaden its demos

It hasn’t been a fairytale season for ABC, but things could be worse.

While this may be faint praise, the Alphabet should be encouraged that, despite double-digit declines for last year’s hottest newcomer (“Once Upon a Time”), as well as the net’s top comedy (“Modern Family”) and reality show (“Dancing With the Stars”), it has lost little competitive ground.

ABC likely will finish the season in fourth place among adults 18-49 — barring a friendly rounding that allows it to catch NBC — but it has closed the gap this season with leaders CBS and Fox, whose declines in regular-program averages are greater.

Ratings gains for Thursday drama “Scandal” and Friday entrepreneurial reality series “Shark Tank” have helped compensate for declines elsewhere, but the net still has plenty of work to do.

As it looks to fall, ABC will need to address some bugaboo timeslots, find ways to attract more men, and perhaps address life post-“Dancing With the Stars,” which has faded opposite NBC’s hot “The Voice.”

Instead of airing Monday cycles of “Dancing” in the fall and spring, sandwiched in the winter by “The Bachelor,” the Alphabet should consider a reversal, and go with the dating show opposite “The Voice,” and let “Dancing” run in the middle part of the season.

Such a move would also free up an hour on Tuesday in the fall usually reserved for the “Dancing” results show.

“Castle” continues to do well closing out Monday for ABC, so there’s no real reason to make a change there. The night is extremely female, but that’s not such a bad thing opposite football in the fall.

In the years since it lost the NFL, ABC has cultivated a strong female brand, and probably doesn’t want to veer too far from that. But it also needs to bring more men into the tent.

Only a handful of current ABC series — including “Modern Family” and “Shark Tank” — derive more than 35% of their adult audience from men.

Tuesday, where ABC is down 15% and now ranks fourth, needs an overhaul — and a promotion for “Shark Tank” is a good starting point. It could air at 9, between new dramas of interest to guys, perhaps “Marvel’s Shield” at 8 and something like lottery-winner tale “Lucky 7” at 10. And ABC might consider promoting the lineup during sibling net ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

“Shield” would be up against “NCIS” and “The Voice,” but ABC must make a bold move in this troubled time period.

Wednesday also provides an opportunity to attract men, even though the show that closes the night, “Nashville,” is 75% female. Assuming “Nashville” stays put, the net could look to add men on either side of “Modern Family” with the untitled Cullen brothers comedy starring James Caan or maybe “Family Tools,” which just bowed last week. The more femme-friendly “How to Live With Your Parents” is also still in the mix.

On Thursday, ABC has a chance to be the drama destination for women. “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” are strong from 9 to 11, but the night has lacked an opening act in recent years — and has seen some spectacular failures. Instead of reality shows or serialized dramas, the net could opt for a lighter drama with procedural elements, like the mother-daughter amateur-sleuth series “Murder in Manhattan.”

ABC has improved on Fridays this season thanks mostly to “Shark Tank,” but if that show moves from the night, the net could expand its comedy block by adding “The Neighbors” and either “Suburgatory” or a newcomer alongside “Last Man Standing” and “Malibu Country.”

If ABC has strong non-family comedies one option might be to rest “Nashville” in January and February and air these Wednesday at 10.

Sunday is a tough nut for ABC, especially with “Once Upon a Time” and “Revenge” sagging, but the best bet is bringing them back and trying to finish stronger.

Overall, ABC has plenty of pieces, but must fill holes on Tuesday and Thursday that have been dragging it down.

More TV

  • Asa Butterfield in Netflix's Sex Education

    Netflix & Sky Strike Multi-Year Deal To Keep Streamer On Service

    Comcast-owned pay-TV operator Sky and Netflix have hammered out a new multi-year deal to keep content from the streaming giant on the service.  Under the new deal, customers of Sky’s set-top box service Sky Q will have the option to opt in for Netflix’s basic plan, which is priced locally at £5.99 ($7.99) per month. [...]

  • Paradigm Agency Cuts 30 Staff Positions,

    Paradigm Agency Cuts 30 Staff Positions, Mostly in Music

    Paradigm has made a significant cut to its staff, laying off about 30 agents and support staff or 4% of its employees, Variety has confirmed. Sources said most of the layoffs were in the music area at the agency and took place Friday.. Paradigm, which had about 700 employees prior to the layoffs, had no [...]

  • Edward Burns'Alex Cross' film premiere, Los

    Edward Burns Dramedy, Blumhouse TV Docuseries in Development at Epix

    Epix is eyeing some potential new additions on both the scripted and unscripted front. Network president Michael Wright unveiled Epix’s development slate, which includes two scripted projects and three prospective docuseries, at its Television Critics’ Association winter press tour day. One of the two scripted series hails from Edward Burns who is best known for [...]

  • Kim Kardashian WestFashion Group International's Night

    Kim Kardashian West 'Goes to War' on Mass Incarceration in Documentary Trailer (Watch)

    Kim Kardashian West is going to war on mass incarceration. Oxygen has released the trailer for her documentary “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project,” which sees the media personality declare that “there is a mass incarceration problem in the United States.” The two-hour documentary, premiering Sunday, April 5, captures Kardashian West as she explores the [...]

  • Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of

    Harry and Meghan Will Give Up Royal Titles, Repay U.K. for House Renovation

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will lose their royal titles of “His Royal Highness” or “Her Royal Highness,” when they step back as senior members of the United Kingdom’s royal family, according to a new statement from Queen Elizabeth and Buckingham Palace. However, the duo will maintain the moniker of Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The [...]

  • Grey's Anatomy deaths

    The Top 13 ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Deaths Ranked

    If there’s anyone that knows how to deliver a heart-wrenching death scene, it’s the team behind ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” Created by Shonda Rhimes, the broadcast medical drama came out of the gate in 2005 with literal life and death stakes for its characters. Being set in a hospital meant that mortality was a constant theme [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    'Surviving Jeffrey Epstein' Docuseries Gets Greenlight at Lifetime

    Lifetime has officially ordered the four-hour documentary series “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein.” The announcement was made at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Saturday. The series was originally announced as in development last summer and is expected to air this summer on Lifetime. Hailing from Emmy-winner Robert Friedman’s Bungalow Media + Entertainment, Anne Sundberg [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content