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Bob Iger on ABC: We Want More Homegrown Hits

Disney chief says Alphabet needs to strengthen its primetime sked with 'programming we own'

With the upfronts looming next week and ABC in last place among the coveted 18-49 demo, Disney chief Bob Iger has one request for network: “We could use a few more new hits and hits that we own.”

Iger made the statement during a call with analysts to discuss the company’s robust second quarter results on Tuesday, in which he said the network and ABC stations “have had a tough run during the last few months.”

During the most recent second quarter, which wrapped March 30, Disney’s broadcast division, led by ABC, saw revenue decline 2% to $1.5 billion on lower ratings, although profits rose 40% to $138 million.

“There’s no real secret to it,” he said of ABC’s needs. “On the network front, we’d like a stronger primetime schedule, particularly with programming that we own.”

ABC’s president of entertainment Paul Lee ordered two dozen pilots (plus a presentation for “Once Upon a Time” spinoff revolving around Alice in Wonderland) to consider as he builds his upcoming schedule of shows. Of those orders, 18 hail from ABC Studios. ABC is expected to make its series orders on Friday in advance of Tuesday’s upfront presentation at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.

Among the Alphabet’s hot prospects are Joss Whedon’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” based on the comicbook company’s spy characters, some of which were seen in “The Avengers,” the “Iron Man” franchise, “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Whedon developed and directed “S.H.I.E.L.D.” after helming “The Avengers,” a $1.5 billion blockbuster at the worldwide box office.

Another drama in consideration is an oater inspired by the Disneyland roller coaster Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Iger told analysts that he was high on many of the new shows in contention.

“I’ve seen the pilots and I’m more than reasonably encouraged in what I’ve seen,” he said.

ABC’s success will depend on having a team in place that “comes up with the kinds of shows that drive higher ratings and advertising revenue,” he added. Iger cited Shonda Rhimes’ ABC Studios-produced sudser “Scandal” (pictured above) which has blossomed in its second season, as the kind of “program that we own that has great potential in delivering on our investment. But we want more of them.”

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