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TCA: ABC’s Paul Lee Talks ‘Happy Endings’ Cancellation, Broadening Demos and Lucasfilm

ABC prez said he had 'glint in his eye' when Lucasfilm joined Disney fam

ABC Entertainment prez Paul Lee, the only exec to wield a foreign accent during his exec session at summer TCA, remarked that when he returned to the country after a trip recently, he found the quality of American television to be “sobering.”

“I think we don’t give enough credit for just how powerful American TV is,” the Brit topper said. “…I don’t think it’s our responsibility to create shows branded for international,” noting that foreign auds have grown up with American storytelling, idioms and the like, which makes for a smooth transition for Stateside content overseas.

While the prez emphasized the broad appeal of American television, he nevertheless didn’t stray from the assertion that ABC is a network that dominates in the upscale sector of viewers 18-49, and with women. With shows like “Scandal,” “Revenge” and “The Bachelorette” that skew heavily female, ABC has become the broadcast network destination for “empowered women,” as Lee put it, yet “it’s still incumbent upon us to bring in a larger audience.”

The addition of “Agents of SHIELD,” “The Goldbergs” and “Lucky 7” to ABC’s lineup, Lee hopes, will appeal to the “four quadrants,” demo jargon that Lee has been using for shows that cover both older and younger demos with men and women. Lee also noted that while Thursday and Sunday nights on ABC are dominated by femme-forward programs, the network is “highly co-viewed,” looping in males during broadcasts of “Shark Tank,” “The Middle” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

When asked about fellow Big Four networks leveraging event series on their slates, Lee said that ABC is in stride with that trend, with shows including “Betrayal” and forthcoming limited series “Black Box.”

The inevitable Netflix question was tossed to Lee, and the exec happily responded, “As the head of a studio [referring to ABC Studios], it’s always great to have a new entrant to sell a show to.”

“We have strong relationships with Netflix in terms of the shows we put there,” he added. “Competition is very good. To have competition around keeps us all on our toes, and I welcome it.”

Competition may be what drove ABC to set a “Shark Tank” strip dubbed “Shark Tank Week” on the week of Sept. 8, placing the strip directly against NBC’s ambitious, limited-run gameshow “Million Second Quiz.” When asked if the NBC strip affected ABC’s decision to set a strip of its own popular gameshow in the same timeslot, Lee avoided the question.

The prexy also addressed the canning of “Happy Endings,” a comedy that, while received positively by critics, was nixed by the Alphabet due to low ratings earlier this year.

“We couldn’t find [‘Happy Ending’s’] sea legs away from a strong lead-in,” Lee explained, referencing “Modern Family,” “and that’s why we ended up at that decision”

Finally, “Star Wars” fans may also have reason to take notice of ABC, as well, as Marvel fans have in recent months. Since Disney purchased Lucasfilm, don’t count out a potential pairing of Lucasfilm properties with the Disney-owned Alphabet network.

“We started conversations with them,” Lee said, adding that he has a “glint in his eye” with the addition of Lucasfilm to the Disney family.

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