McPherson: ABC Building on Its Assets, Rethinking ‘Dancing’ Voting

Jul 26, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Following the success of last year’s first-season hits “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” ABC will continue to focus on its assets and building off its current schedule, ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson said Tuesday at the network’s Television Critics Association press tour presentation.

While heavily marketing just a few new shows for the fall will remain the strategy for ABC, Mr. McPherson declined to say which of the network’s new product would get the extra attention. Last fall ABC focused heavily on “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Wife Swap.” All three shows saw ratings success.

“It will be painfully obvious which shows we will focus on,” Mr. McPherson said, adding that the “Housewives” campaign from last year that promoted the show on dry cleaning bags would return, but this year free “Housewives” shirts will be given out in selected bags.

Mr. McPherson declined to elaborate on any other marketing ideas “because other people are ripping the ideas off.”

While ABC’s opening press tour event was something of a victory lap for the network, Mr. McPherson fielded many questions about the voting process in the surprise summer reality hit “Dancing With the Stars” and the final winner, “General Hospital” soap star Kelly Monaco. One critic asked whether ABC would ban its network talent like Ms. Monaco from being on the upcoming midseason installment to remove any question that only ABC talent could win.

“We wouldn’t bar them but we’re casting the net as wide as we can,” he said of using ABC talent. “This isn’t about having a show for cross-promotional purposes.”

The network is considering revamping the format for the final episode and having a results show, Mr. McPherson said.

“We don’t have a results show for this show,” he said. “There is something to be said whether or not a results show makes sense.”

In terms of other networks making a play for the Thursday night audience that once solely belonged to NBC, Mr. McPherson said Thursday “is a really important night for us” but isn’t necessarily the “penultimate night for us.”

“I’m not going to take one of our giant shows like ‘Desperate Housewives’ just to win Thursday night,” he said, noting that “Alias'” move to Thursday makes sense because “It has such a dedicated audience that is a great asset to try out there.”

But the move for “Lost” from 8 p.m. (ET) on Wednesdays to 9 p.m. was “less risky” because ABC knew the show performed there from its two-hour premiere.

“The later hour is a great opportunity,” Mr. McPherson said of “Lost’s” schedule change.

He said the criticism from different fair housing groups and other advocacy organizations over the summer reality series “Welcome to the Neighborhood” was not a factor in ABC’s decision to pull the show less than two weeks before it was scheduled to air. “Neighborhood,” which followed a group of white, Christian families as they selected their new neighbors from a group of ethnically and religiously diverse families, was heavily promoted up until the decision to pull the show was made.

“This was our decision,” he said. “If I stopped airing things just because of what advocacy groups had an issue with we would run a test pattern. The show was just not right. This was a very challenging show. We did not anticipate the episodic nature of it would be as problematic as it was.”

A revamped “Neighborhood” stand-alone special was something Mr. McPherson said ABC has considered, but he admitted he does not know “whether it will air.”

ABC also announced its fall premiere dates:

  • Monday, Sept. 12: “Wife Swap”

  • Tuesday, Sept. 20: “According to Jim” (one-hour premiere)

  • Wednesday, Sept. 21: “Lost,” “Invasion”

  • Friday, Sept. 23: “Supernanny,” “Hope & Faith” (one-hour season premiere)

  • Sunday, Sept. 25: “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, (two-hour season premiere), “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy”

  • Tuesday, Sept. 27: “Commander in Chief,” “Boston Legal”

  • Wednesday, Sept. 28: “George Lopez” (one-hour premiere)

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: “Alias,” “Night Stalker”

  • Sunday, Oct. 2: “America’s Funniest Home Videos”

  • Tuesday, Oct. 4: “Rodney”

  • Wednesday, Oct. 5: “Freddie”

  • Friday, Oct. 7: “Hot Properties”