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TCA: ABC’s Lee marvels at possibilities

Building shows around Disney brands is a priority

Putting fall misfires behind him, ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee spoke enthusiastically about the net’s Joss Whedon superhero pilot “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and how the show will help the Walt Disney conglom’s multiple brands.

Lee, who spoke at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena on the Alphabet’s day at the Television Critics Assn. tour, emphasized how the pilot, which is very likely to be ordered as a series for fall, serves as an example of using the recently acquired Marvel brand to create financial windfalls throughout Disney’s bottom line.

“We’re developing a lot of Marvel shows,” Lee said, while neither confirming nor denying that Marvel property “The Incredible Hulk” is still in development. “Marvel is a huge opportunity. We want to be doing shows that can help the wider Walt Disney Company. It’s fun to be fun to be part of a company that owns so many strong brands. and to be able to help build and invigorate some of those brands.”

As for where the show might land on the ABC schedule, Lee said, “We’re a long way from scheduling ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.,’ but there’s no question it could go anywhere: At 8, absolutely on a Sunday, and at 9 or 10 too.”

While Lee touted strong C3 numbers for fall, ABC saw several disappointments on the drama side. Already shut down are spooky “666 Park Avenue” and “Last Resort,” the Shawn Ryan exec-produced skein that starred Andre Braugher as a submarine commander.

The reason for the “Last Resort” failure, Lee explained, was that the show was unable to draw female audiences, which has long been the demo lifeblood of the net.

“It was a male show and it didn’t connect with its relationship to women,” Lee said, later adding: “If we do shows that guys like and women don’t want to come to, that doesn’t work for us. If we do shows that women and men like, then we have a crack at (succeeding).”

As for the failure of “666 Park Avenue,” Lee was caught off guard. “That was a surprise because it tracked so well,” he said.

Despite nothing-special 18-49 demos, Lee remains high on Wednesday night skein “Nashville,” the sudser with Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as rival country music singers. It performs much better, Lee stated, with younger viewers.

“Its a big show in 18-34. For 18-49, there may be a barrier to entry. Our strategy in going forward (with ‘Nashville’) is we have the young trendsetters using multiple platforms. That will help to bring an older audience in. We think we can do better.”

Lee also believes the stop-and-start fall season hurt several ABC shows in getting off to a productive start.

“It was an incredibly disruptive launch schedule with the elections, debates and (hurricane) Sandy,” he said. “We wanted our auds to have more a of chance to see these shows.”

On the plus side, Lee was touting the continued strong results — both creatively and on the ratings side — of Wednesday staple “Modern Family” and Sunday standout “Once Upon a Time.” He was also happy with how “Jimmy Kimmel Live” debuted in its new 11:35 p.m. timeslot Tuesday after shifting from midnight.

When asked what he thought of Seth MacFarlane’s performance Thursday morning during the Oscar nominations presentation, Lee said he thought it went over well. And for how his comic sensibilities will play in front of the industry-heavy Dolby Theater aud and millions around the world on what is normally the most-watched ABC program of the year, Lee said: “Seth will bring a lot of fun. He’s coming to the Oscars with great sense of respect and very contemporary feel. I’m sensing he’ll have a lot of fun out there and we’ll have a good Oscar. I could be proven wrong.”

As has been the theme at TCA, Lee gave his thoughts on how violence in entertainment can influence impressionable viewers, and whether there should be larger discussions in the TV community to see what, if anything, should be done.

“Our job is to get a sense of what the culture is feeling. We welcome the conversation,” he said. “Broadcast has the most stringent standards and are tremendously sensitive to this issue. We’re storytellers but we want to makes sure stories are done with integrity and no gratuitous action.”

In programming news, Lee said he would continue to air two cycles per year of “Dancing With the Stars” and he hasn’t determined when the primetime edition of “Nightline” would premiere, but it will be in the 9 p.m. Friday timeslot.

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