ABC is doubling down on its commitment to live, tentpole television.
The aim, said ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke at the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour on Wednesday, is for the network to present at least one live or big tentpole event every month. That includes the Oscars next month, a live episode of “The Conners,” “Highwire Live with Nik Wallenda,” the NFL draft, and a new installation of “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” in successive months.
“We love the strategy we’ve adopted now of at least one monthly tentpole event,” said Burke, adding that the network is considering continuing to event-ize its existing franchises and properties. “It’s a combination of looking for new properties that feel like they can thrive on broadcast… [and taking] programs that already exist and event-izing those.”
She also confirmed that the Oscars will again be host-less this year. (When asked about who is being considered to host the Emmys in September, Burke quipped: “Baby Yoda?”)
Among the announcements Burke made on stage at TCA: ABC has picked up the pilot to “Thirtysomething(else),” a sequel to the Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick series “Thirtysomething”; a Leslie Jones-hosted revival of the game show “Supermarket Sweep”; “The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart,” a musically inclined iteration of the reality series; a special celebrity eight-episode primetime edition of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” hosted by Jimmy Kimmel; and “Young Frankenstein.”
On bringing more Marvel-focused series to ABC, Burke said that the network is in early talks with Marvel head Kevin Feige on what a ABC-Marvel series would look like.
“Right now Marvel’s focus has been on shows for Disney Plus, which is as it should be,” she said.
On former White House communications director Sean Spicer’s tenure on “Dancing With the Stars,” Burke maintained that it was the right call to have him on the show.
“It’s a ballroom dancing show, it’s not a political show,” she said, “and I think the contestants came with the spirit of that.”
Calling “The Bachelor” franchise “unscripted unicorns,” Burke said the series drew in a wide-ranging audience, making it the youngest and “most upscale” show on ABC. All three editions grew audiences in linear and in double-digits in multiplatform, she said.
Burke also took a moment on stage to remember “Ugly Betty” creator Silvio Horta, who was found dead of apparent suicide Tuesday, calling him a “beloved member of the ABC family.”
“Our thoughts are with his friends and family today,” she said.
When asked about the search to fill the void left by “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder” creator Shonda Rhimes, who has since departed ABC for Netflix, Burke said that “Shonda is still very much a part of our programming,” adding that Rhimes is “very involved” in her shows at the network. Burke also touted the strength of the relatively newly combined trio of studios, ABC Studios, Fox 21 and 20th Century Fox — under corporate parent Disney — and said she believes the next Shonda Rhimes is already in their midst.
The addition of streaming platform Disney Plus to the entertainment conglomerate does not appear to have hampered things. Calling herself a “huge fan” of Disney Plus, Burke said the streamer has a very defined, differentiated brand from ABC, and does not see the platform as competition but a partner.
“The creators really decide which platform the show belongs to,” said Burke.