Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 Upfront Questions, ABC

Part two of the upfront preview is the SCHEDULE-centric portion, as I examine the big-picture scheduling questions each network faces on each night in the final week before its upfront. I've always favored laying out the possibilities rather than creating an actual mock schedule; this seems to set me up better to review the schedule next week without making it all about how my own prediction/recommendation did.

Last week's Power Rankings were the SHOW-centric portion, in which I drilled more into the merits of individual shows: ABC True Power Rankings

Other Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW


2012-13 Schedule
8:00 - Dancing with the Stars / The Bachelor
9:00 - Castle

Question: How dire is the Dancing with the Stars problem, really?

Yesterday my diagnosis for the X Factor / Idol problem on Fox was essentially "ride it out, but try to launch some pieces around it." The reason I favor that idea is because there's not an actual scheduling fix for what ails the Fox shows. ABC's Dancing with the Stars is a different kind of problem, because it's abundantly clear that it's airing directly in competition with a much hotter music program taking a lot of potential viewers away. It might be a considerably more valuable show if scheduled differently. Something should be done to get DWTS away from The Voice. But will it?

Here are the most obvious possibilities:

1. Stand pat. Dancing is still a "league average" show or better on a tough night, and that's nothing to sniff at, especially on a below-average network. If there are other big shake-ups to promote, ABC might grind out one last season with this arrangement, even if it's clearly less than ideal.

2. Keep it on Monday, but in between The Voice cycles. In other words, have a regular season of Bachelor / DWTS / Bachelor (maybe another DWTS in the summer?) rather than the current DWTS / Bachelor / DWTS. This would be the way to create the least reverberation across the rest of the schedule. Is ABC resting Bachelor Pad this summer so they can give the Bachelor franchise a break before returning it to the fall?

3. Sunday. Airing Dancing on Sunday could accomplish two huge things: a) get it away from The Voice; and b) get some of the dramas out of the increasingly awful Sunday fray (more on that later). The biggest logistical problem is it would probably have to join in tandem with #2 since the British version airs on Saturday/Sunday in the fall.

4. Thursday/Friday. This has always been my pet idea because it could: a) stabilize the long-troubled Thursday 8:00 hour; and b) with its very old-skewing audience, probably hold up pretty well on Friday and provide an ideal lead-in for a 20/20. But the blossoming of the Grey's Anatomy/Scandal combo creates a great deal of scheduling awkwardness around this idea. I had always thought they could do a few two-hour editions, then premiere Grey's and Scandal circa the beginning of November sweeps and shrink the performance edition to an hour. But do they want to wait that long on the increasingly powerful dramas? And what of the large hole created on Monday?

My vote? Well, it's such a solvable problem that I say they should definitely do something. I do appreciate the "two birds with one stone" elegance of #3. In terms of what will happen, I always lean conservative, so I'm guessing #2 is most likely (probably followed by #1, sadly).


2012-13 Schedule
8:00 - Dancing with the Stars / The Taste / Celebrity Wife Swap / Splash
9:00 - Happy Endings / The Taste / Dancing with the Stars
9:30 - Apartment 23 / The Taste / Dancing with the Stars
10:00 - Private Practice / Body of Proof

Question: Is ABC finally in the right position to go really aggressive on Tuesday?

Last year ABC pieced together a bunch of straggling returnees in a lineup that looked bad on upfront day and even worse when the fall ratings started coming in. Perhaps they could do that again; a couple second-tier sitcoms like Suburgatory and The Neighbors, then DWTS results and Body of Proof? But let's hope DWTS has been ground down enough that ABC will be motivated toward something a little more transformational. I remain convinced this is the perfect night for S.H.I.E.L.D., because if it does as well as seems possible, there's enough space for it to truly shape the night. S.H.I.E.L.D. may give ABC a hope in the Thursday 8:00 hour or on Sunday, but even if it hits, it'll be funneling that audience into something like Grey's Anatomy that won't see the maximum benefit.


2012-13 Schedule
8:00 - The Middle
8:30 - The Neighbors / Suburgatory / Family Tools
9:00 - Modern Family
9:30 - Suburgatory / How to Live
10:00 - Nashville 

Question: Which of the potential second-tier returning sitcoms get the cushy Wednesday slot(s)?

There are only two with a really solid chance to stay in the Wednesday mix: Suburgatory (a proven decent commodity at 8:30 between Middle and Modern) and recently introduced How to Live (which might have shown enough to get another try after Modern Family in the fall). It's perfectly reasonable neither ends up on the initial lineup if ABC has some great fits with the anchors in development. It's also not impossible that both could end up back on Wednesday, if ABC holds at just three sitcom hours and/or wants to focus their promotional muscle on big shake-ups elsewhere.


2012-13 Schedule
8:00 - Last Resort / Zero Hour / Wife Swap
9:00 - Grey's Anatomy
10:00 - Scandal

Question: Is the time now for ABC to mess with its blooming power hours?

Again, there are several possibilities here. In the most extreme case, they could actually move one to another night as they did with Grey's from Sunday in 2006. Maybe Grey's or Scandal is really just the best they can come up with to solve the Tuesday problem. But ideally, I'd keep both on Thursday and set up Scandal to take over the Grey's Anatomy role.

They could flip the two, giving Scandal the higher-viewed slot. Possible, but unless they're doing something big at 8:00 (probably DWTS or S.H.I.E.L.D.) it'd be really risky to leave Scandal with huge lead-in uncertainty.

A sneaky-interesting suggestion is to shift both shows down an hour, going with Grey's / Scandal / new drama. That may be the best arrangement to maximize the Scandal ratings, resembling the "love letter to a young returning drama" that they did for Revenge on Sunday last year. It wouldn't be best for Grey's, or for the 10:00 hour, but those are probably lower on the priority list anyway.

This two-hour block is not nearly as world-beating as Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy in 2006. So unless there is some really compelling reason, I'd leave this one alone for another year and see what happens. It's not like they are totally without options on the other problematic nights.


2012-13 Schedule
8:00 - Shark Tank / Last Man Standing / Happy Endings
8:30 - Shark Tank / Malibu Country / Happy Endings
9:00 - Primetime: What Would You Do? / Shark Tank
10:00 - 20/20

Question: Will the full-fledged return of TGIF be realized?

ABC head Paul Lee has made his desire for this known since very early in his tenure. Something has gotten in his way, but fortunately it's one of those "good problems to have" in #1 Friday show Shark Tank. What would Shark Tank do on another night? I have serious doubts that it is best used anywhere other than Friday, in terms of valuing its ratings based on the timeslot (True2). But it'd probably be a solid player almost anywhere. If ABC doesn't add a Friday comedy hour, it'll be because they don't believe in the comedy options enough, not because Shark Tank is stopping them.

Another way to look at this: they could do a great-for-Friday Shark Tank plus a probably bad-for-Tuesday second-tier comedy block, or they could do an acceptable-for-Friday comedy block plus an acceptable-for-Tuesday Shark Tank. So moving Shark Tank would surely hurt the Friday ratings (and quite possibly the combined ratings), but it'd limit the potential downside somewhere else.


2012-13 Schedule
7:00 - America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 - Once Upon a Time
9:00 - Revenge
10:00 - 666 Park Ave / Red Widow

Question: How does ABC deal with the increasingly daunting event season and cable presence?

With no NFL help and a focus on buzzy dramas, ABC is by far the worst-suited broadcast network for Sunday. Eventually they may need to address that at a fundamental level. Is this the year? As always, there are varying degrees of change they can make. They could basically stand pat in terms of the fall schedule, but at least address that Once and Revenge were so beaten-down this season that we're past the days of sprinkling these shows into the event-riddled portion of the year. A drama-filled Sunday lineup should be prepared for a long mid-season hiatus.

Or they could go the drastic route, and just admit that these problems aren't going away. Perhaps it could be the night for their reality franchises. It's too bad they don't have something like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition around anymore, because something like that (or maybe even Shark Tank?) into a two-hour reality show from 9 to 11 could be a solid way to tackle the Sunday landscape of today.


Spot said...

Firstly, I'm confused as to the omission of Family Tools from the 2012-13 line-up. Is this deliberate because of the extremely late premiere and low ratings, or an accidental oversight?

Secondly, I agree that SHIELD is best-suited for Tuesdays, but that the 9pm hour is where it should be launched so that ABC can avoid having it compete directly w/ The Voice (which seems like a risky proposition for any show right now). Shark Tank might (might) make for a decent filler lead-in if they don't leave Dancing in its current configuration.

Spot said...

If S.H.I.E.L.D. lands Thursdays at 8, I can see the logic: it's a pre-sold concept that's current, which makes it different from Charlie's Angels. But given how high-profile it would be, I don't see ABC underselling the show. Plus, Disney owns Marvel so the corporate parent also has a vested interest in the show.

Ultimately, though, Tuesday across-the-board is a bigger hole than Thursdays at 8 for the Alphabet. So the focus will probably be there. Plus I don't think they want to aim at TV's biggest "geek" night in The Big Bang Theory with S.H.I.E.L.D.

Spot said...

Oversight. Thanks!

Spot said...

I know it's silly, but I saw Christian Slater's name on Influence and ran as far away as I could.

Spot said...

Sundays/Mondays/Tuesdays (I am basically going to copy what I have written on the power rankings):

- I think DWTS belongs on Sundays now as counterprogramming against the male skewing stuff that is going on in there [TWD, GoT, Football, Fox Cartoons]. The Voice is simply murdering it and there is no way it can survive while facing it. I don't think the move per se will be enough now though, I think i also needs to rest for a while to get back stronger (a la TBL this year, or even The Bachelor). For that reason (and also to avoid the problem of the UK edition, which takes place in the fall), I would move it to Sundays spring and have the bachelor there Sundays fall. The reasoning is the same (good female programming against all the male skewing stuff). If both franchises can settle within mid 2s range, I think that would be a big victory for ABC reality.

- I think Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays (with the exception of Castle) need to be 100% revamped. I am completely against the idea of moving DWTS to Thursday/Friday because ABC has three nights that are not working at all for them and three nights that are (Wed, Thursd, Frid - albeit with some worse hours, but they are overall great here, comparatively speaking). The move would leave one night unfixed (Sundays), it would leave Monday and Tuesdays exposed to risk, and it would also leave Thursdays and Fridays exposed to risk (there is never a guarantee that a move can work)!! I simply don't understand the idea of messing with what is working to solve an issue if you can mess with what is not working in order to do so. Plus, I honestly can't think of any other possible solution for Sundays and they are a big problem for ABC right now IMO.

- I would use a combination of reallocated Revenge, Once Upon a Time, always reliable Castle and new strong shows with buzz (a la Shield), to completely revamp Mondays and Tuesdays.

- In practice, these aren't that many moves (only the reality to Sunday, OUAT and Revenge to Monday/Tuesday), but it still feels like a lot. So I would give ABC's promotional department a break and let the other days remain as they are right now (except for a new show on Thursday). There aren't actually that many no-brainers move that I would make, with the possible exception of the dichotomy: comedies on Tuesday and Shark Tank on Friday vs. comedies on Friday and Shark Tank on Tuesday (and Monday). Still, the way I look at this is: Shark Tank is a Friday megahit, it is hitting 2s on a regular basis now in there and I don't think it would do much better than that on a weekday. The comedies though (either new or returning) are likely to pull even more depressed numbers on Friday than on a weekday. My point? Net net, ABC is better of with comedies on Tuesday and Shark Tank on a Friday. Plus, it is one less move.

- The issue of the Thursday at 8slot is, IMO, an issue of scheduling the right thing in there. Put a drama that is low concept (a procedural), that is female skewing and that has broad appeal. Also, it needs to have quality. If you look at all the shows they have put in there (especially those launched in the fall, when chances of succeeding are higher), none of the fulfill all of these characteristics. And they have plenty of pilots that look like they could do so!

- Finally, I wouldn't make a decision right now on the DWTS Results Show. It is a filler show at this point and since I am holding DWTS to mid-season, ABC can then reassess the state of its Monday and Tuesday new lineups and see if it could be of need or not. If everything is fine (unlikely), just cancel the damn thing. If not, just plug it somewhere on the Monday/Tuesday schedule.

Spot said...

So, this would all mean:

Monday [Promote the super new fantasy block together]:
Big Thunder


Tuesday [Promote the Sunday moves together]
New Comedy
New Comedy*
Once Upon a Time/ OUAT Spin-off/ Once Upon a Time

Revenge/ Betrayal/ Revenge

*Renew the Neighbors as backup

The Middle
Modern Family
How to Live with Your Parents
Nashville [13 eps order only to see if it grows, if not, can it come midseason]

*Please, just stop messing with this block. It can't be impossible to have the same 4 shows airing there an entire season now, can it?

Doubt or Murder in Manhattan
Grey’s Anatomy

Last Man Standing
Malibu Country
Shark Tank

The Bachelor/ Winter Wipeout/ DWTS
The Bachelor/ Primetime: What Would You Do?/ DWTS
Betrayal [Sounds compatible with the bachelor], but Body of Proof will most likely end up here come midseason

Spot said...

That's not weird. In fact, I have a theory on that. It's called "Slater's a showkiller, steer clear at all costs".

Spot said...

If, by any chance, anyone has actually read through all this, I would love feedback on this one. From all my schedules (except possibly the cw, but that is very simple), this is the one I like the most, by far.

Spot said...

This may be the hardest one. ABC doesn't have a lot of big name flops like Mob Doctor or Go On, but they have a lot of shows like Suburgatory and Nashville that aren't really doing that well. Anything that's doing well, I'm not messing with. Everything else will involve rather aggressive time-sharing to limit momentum-killing reruns for the

I have to say that I'm not sold on TGIF. Not when Shark Tank is averaging 1.88 this season with a weak lead-in. Networks can't afford to just throw that away. Not on a bunch of Wednesday cast-offs. We saw what happened with NBC Thursday and FOX Tuesday. Four comedies does not a block make.


8: The Bachelor/Dancing with the Stars
10: Betrayal/Lucky 7


8: Last Man Standing
8:30: King John
10: Castle/Body of Proof


8: The Middle
8:30: Trophy Wife
9: Modern Family
9:30: How the Hell Am I Normal?
10: Super Fun Night
10:30: Pulling/Mixology


8: Reality
9: Grey's Anatomy
10: Scandal

8: Suburgatory
8:30: The Neighbors
9: Shark Tank
10: 20/20

Sunday (Fall):

7: America's Funniest Home Videos
8: Once Upon A Time
9: Betrayal
10: Nashville

Sunday (Spring):

7: AFV
8: Wonderland
9: Revenge
10: Gothica

Spot said...

I think if they put the reality franchises on Sunday, there would probably still be that prolonged "filler" period during event/Olympics season, and just one season of each franchise. DWTS would launch at around the time Celebrity Apprentice usually does.

Spot said...

I agree with the broadest stroke (reality to Sunday). My biggest difference is I put SHIELD on Tuesday simply because the Tuesday 9-11 area is so ridiculously exploitable.

I'm with you on the Shark Tank/comedies analysis and basically said as much above, but ideally I would move Shark Tank to Tuesday just to assure SHIELD has a stable lead-in. That to me would be worth a (small) hit in the combined ratings between Tue 8pm and Fri 9pm.

I actually have stronger disagreements with your "simple" CW sked! ;-)

Spot said...

I see the logic in your schedule. But I would actually flip Monday and Tuesday entirely because I think there's a greater upside to S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesdays. With so much ratings firepower from other networks on Mondays (Voice, HIMYM, MNF), I'd rather see ABC swing harder on Tuesdays where the only difficult sledding is against NCIS and Voice.

I'd like to see how Nashville would do paired with one of ABC's reality shows (ideally The Bachelor) just because I think it'd have more growth potential that way. And yes, I don't think Shark Tank would see more year-to-year growth on a weeknight. But even the high 1's that it could pull would be an improvement to ABC's Tuesdays or Thursday at 8, and it'd probably earn more in ad revenue as well.

All these different combinations make ABC the most interesting wildcard for upfronts as so many justifiable schedules could be made.

Spot said...

The thing with ABC is that you could come up with about fifty different fantasy schedules - and none of them will match the actual announced fall schedule!

I'll offer up something radical.

Monday: 8 Batchelor/DWTS/Batchelorette, 10 Castle

I like the suggestion of shifting the reality to Sunday. Here's why I'm not doing that.

Tuesday fall/spring: 8 SHIELD, 9 Big Thunder, 10 Influence
Tuesday winter: 8 new reality, 9 DWTS results, 10 BoP

And just like that, you focus ABC's promotional efforts on Stupor Tuesday, the biggest opportunity in television... and you give them a midseason hiatus that allows them to run repeat-free throughout the fall and spring!

Wednesday: 8 The Middle, 8:30 Suburgatory, 9 Modern Family, 9:30 How The Hell Am I Normal?, 10 Nashville

Minimise the Wednesday changes to one new MF lead-out and you fire up Tuesday.

Thursday: 8 Primetime Nightline, 9 Grey's, 10 Scandal

Grey's is the biggest self-starter in television. Why even bother trying in your zero hour when you don't need to?

Friday: 8 Last Man Standing, 8:30 Spy, 9 Shark Tank, 10 20/20

I don't see how any of the other sitcom pilots fit as an LMS leadout.

Sunday fall/spring: 7 AFV, 8 OUAT, 9 Gothica, 10 Revenge

Sunday winter: 7 AFV, 8 Wife Swap, 9 new non-serial reality

Because for crying out loud you do not give serials sporadic airings that include event season. Basically ABC need the next Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to go here, and a two-hour 9-11 show is the way to go to shore up 10.

Either side of event season, Revenge gives 10pm a known quantity, and Gothica acts as counterprogramming against TWD, SNF, and whatever dudecoms (animated and/or, as I'm suspecting with all the sitcoms Fox just picked up, otherwise).

On the bench: Lucky 7, Super Fun Night, The Neighbors, and (given ABC) probably about half a dozen others.

4 new dramas, 2 new comedies... and 1 (one) timeslot change, and that within the same night. The latter is why I'm not shifting DWTS to Sunday as well as giving it the blatantly necessary hold to January.

Spot said...

I understand the point of using Tuesdays to launch Shield, but the point is that I have no idea what else could work on Mondays then. DWTS is not working and it has to be moved, as I vastly stated above, but that means that Mondays, arguably a much tougher night than Tuesdays, will need something to anchor them big time, and the only show I see capable of doing that is Shield.

As for Nashville although I wouldn't mind moving it (ideally, I would actually can it because I think it doesn't have growth potential), I just don't have the room in my schedule for my moves, so I don't think it is worth moving it to Sundays at 10 to launch the new thing Wednesdays at 10. In a vacuum, it sounds good, but overall, I think the net result would be very similar and it would be one extra mve to promote.

But I do agree that ABC is pretty interesting for the upfronts (even though I suspect that it will not move DWTS and disappoint us all). But actually, FOX got pretty interesting too with the amount of orders it has made and CBS is also very interesting due to the comedy expansion or no thing. But ABC could be the biggest game changer IMO.

Spot said...

I have just replied to the Shield on Tuesday thing to Chris L. but my point is that Mondays neeed something to anchor them. I think OUAT and Revenge are strong enough to stabilize Tuesdays but I don't think they can handle Mondays. Sure, it would be nice to maximize Shield's ratings, but I don't see the point of having such a mega hit on Tuesdays if Mondays are left to die.

The Shark Tank move, I would do it, but I need to minimize moves with this schedule. If they don't move DWTS (which is the first thing they must do, IMO), then I am up for it, otherwise no. And there is one other point, which is the fact that comedies on Tuesday probably have a chance of being new, high testing comedies, while comedies on fridays would be, most likely, second tier players from wednesdays, like the neighbors.

On to the cw later ;)

Spot said...

Here's what ABC decided to keep.


Last Man Standing
The Middle
Modern Family
The Neighbors

Don't Trust The B---- in Apartment 23
Family Tools
Happy Endings
How To Live With Your Parents...
Malibu Country


Grey's Anatomy
Once Upon A Time

666 Park Avenue
Body Of Proof
Last Resort
Red Widow
Zero Hour

Pilot Pick-ups:


The Goldbergs (single-camera)(used to be How the Hell Am I Normal?)
Mixology (single)
Back in the Game (single)
Super Fun Night (single)
Trophy Wife (single)

Mind Games (used to be Influence)
Killer Women
Lucky 7
The Returned

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