Tuesday, May 9, 2017

2017 Upfront Questions: ABC

Part two of the upfront preview is the SCHEDULE-centric portion, examining the big-picture scheduling questions each network faces on each night in the final week before its upfront.

On each night, you can see the network's average 2016-17 ratings with its most frequent occupant in three different sub-sections of the year: "fall" (premiere week through December 31), "winter" (January 1 to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time) and "spring" (the start of DST through Thursday, May 4). You can also switch from the A18-49 ratings to the True ratings, which should make the comparisons across nights and across the season a bit more fair.

Last week's Renewology was the SHOW-centric portion, drilling more into the merits of individual shows: ABC Renewology

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


fallDancing with the Stars FallConviction1.37
winterThe BachelorQuantico1.75
springDancing with the Stars SpringQuantico1.33

Question: What gets the best lead-ins on the network?

It really does not get any worse than ABC's combination of Conviction and Quantico in the 10/9c hour last year. (At least I hope not!) Conviction was a dud, and Quantico was several reboots in when it went this route, but the general procedural idea is not that bad. You can only go so far outside of the box with the older-skewing Dancing with the Stars crowd. I'm not a close follower of development but the illusionist/FBI drama Deception seems like a fit?


fallThe MiddleAmerican HousewifeFresh Off the BoatThe Real O'NealsAgents of SHIELD1.17
winterThe MiddleAmerican HousewifeFresh Off the BoatThe Real O'NealsAgents of SHIELD1.07
springThe MiddleAmerican HousewifeFresh Off the BoatImaginary MaryAgents of SHIELD0.98

Question: What will the 9/8c hour look like?

The weakest link in ABC's thriving comedy empire is definitely the Tuesday 9/8c hour, where The Real O'Neals is praying for a spackle reprieve and Fresh Off the Boat is a renewal lock but may be headed somewhere else. Comedy likely stays in the hour, but don't rule out the possibility that ABC will want a higher-viewed hour for its Marvel Inhumans launch. With just eight episodes, we could see comedies take over in late November (or wait till January).


fallThe GoldbergsSpeechlessModern FamilyBlack-ishDesignated Survivor1.71
winterThe GoldbergsSpeechlessModern FamilyBlack-ishMatch Game1.54
springThe GoldbergsSpeechlessModern FamilyBlack-ishDesignated Survivor1.36

Question: Which shows will leave Wednesday?

This was a really successful night of television, but ABC should probably try to keep at least some new blood flowing through the mix. Speechless is young and a "good-not-great" option at 8:30, so the best choice to leave the night would be Black-ish. It's been a very passable occupant for three years, and it's definitely going to have enough episodes for syndication now. So let someone else have a chance.


fallGrey's AnatomyNotoriousHow to Get Away with Murder1.45
winterGrey's AnatomyScandalHow to Get Away with Murder1.73
springGrey's AnatomyScandalThe Catch1.29

Question: How will the TGIT juggling act work?

In 2017-18, ABC may have its first new series with true TGIT staple potential in several years: the new legal drama Black's Law. It'll join the three existing staples, including Scandal which may have more episodes and an earlier start than last year. If Black comes in below the expectations that most seem to have, maybe it just waits for midseason and slips into The Catch's role after How to Get Away with Murder ends. If it looks like the real deal, this is going to be a tough decision. Could ABC find a second night like Sunday in order to get all four on the air out of the gate?


fallLast Man StandingDr. KenShark Tank20/201.00
winterLast Man StandingDr. KenShark Tank20/201.13
springThe Toy BoxShark Tank20/200.86

Question: Will multi-camera comedy at 8/7c survive?

As usual, rumors swirl that the ever-potent Last Man Standing is in danger. It would be a rough decision for the network ratings. People have theorized for years that ABC can just throw on some cheap-o reality series and do the same ratings, but The Toy Box has not exactly proven out that case. "Syndication" is often used to justify saving shows that have little hope of doing anything in syndication, but this is one of the few shows actually thriving there. I'd think both sides would really want to come to the table, but it only gets tougher every year, and this is the dreaded year when contracts are up.

If not, there are a lot of possibilities. Perhaps Sony pulls off another classic Sony coup with Dr. Ken, and the Carol Burnett comedy Household Name joins it. Perhaps the new Sunday situation has taken a single-cam comedy hour off the board, and that comedy hour now ends up here. Perhaps the network takes a flier on the Once Upon a Time reboot in the "family hour" where it could do the least damage. Or perhaps it just goes unscripted all the way.


fallOnce Upon a TimeSecrets and LiesQuantico0.85
winterTo Tell the TruthConviction0.76
springOnce Upon a TimeMatch GameAmerican Crime0.62

Question: Will ABC sit Idol-ly by in the fall?

The biggest story of the pre-pre-upfront week was ABC's pursuit of an American Idol reboot, which was made a done deal this morning and is being eyed for a Sunday March launch, almost certainly the week after the Oscars.

More interesting than Idol itself is the implications for the other six months of the season. That kind of setup could really derail anything that was hoping to be a full-season player on Sunday, and cause the network to go super-complacent on the night in the fall. In a cynical-but-very-possible scenario, they could now squeeze in a short-season reboot of Once Upon a Time, burn off some Quantico episodes (saving the other half of the season for the summer), and stick some poor sap in the middle.

I'm pretty sure that with this kind of expenditure, ABC is going to want to "launch" something after Idol in the Sunday 10/9c hour. So this is probably more in the fantasy realm, but I'd like to see it air from 9:00 to 11:00 instead, keeping the 8:00 hour open as a full-season option for comedies. It'd allow the network to go about its normal business a bit more and not be left with a disaster if Idol struggles. I'm not a big fan of spinning wheels for six months for something that is not a given.

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