Back in the day when I was in research at NBC, I looked at the correlation between network rank and the number of comedies on each network’s schedule. It was consistent. The network with the most comedies was the No. 1 network. As I transitioned to scheduling I kept that fact front and center in my strategy.
ABC goes into next season with 10 comedies on their schedule, which will be more than any network (CBS and FOX each have six, NBC has four). Even some of their hour shows (“America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Child Support” are comedic.
ABC will not be the No. 1 network next year because there is one thing the schedule is lacking: professional sports in primetime. NBC and FOX each have a night of NFL games, and CBS has the benefit of the doubleheader spillover into prime. Yeah, ABC does pretty well with college football on Saturday night, but the NFL gets the big numbers, and there are many Saturday nights with multiple primetime college games on the networks.
Still, this ABC schedule has a lot going for it. First and foremost, it is very sales-friendly. Advertisers will wholeheartedly embrace virtually all 22 hours. Also, this is the most family-friendly of all the networks and is very much in the tradition of the ABC/Disney brand. In fact, if we went 20 or 30 years back in time, this schedule would pretty much be the ABC schedule … not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s very on brand.
This season, ABC started to solve its 10 p.m. problems with “The Good Doctor.” Going back to Nathan Fillion, an ABC 10 p.m. veteran, in police procedural “The Rookie” makes a lot of sense. Their other new 10 p.m. drama, “A Million Little Things,” looks like their attempt at a “This Is Us”-like shot. The feels are in this upfront.
They are protecting their two new comedies behind their two top half-hours (and “The Goldbergs” is no chopped liver), and they are going back to comedies on Friday night — putting a 20th Century Fox-produced comedy, “Fresh Off the Boat” opposite the return of another 20th comedy in “Last Man Standing” on FOX. Coincidence? I think not. In fact, the way ABC programmed “American Idol” opposite “The Voice” shows that they come to play. This is what makes scheduling fun.
Sure, there are some issues. TGIT is circling the drain, and they need some new dramas to bring some excitement to the 9-11 slots on Thursday night. “Dancing with the Stars” may be on its last legs (I’ll be here all week folks), and they should think about something bigger in the fall to carry them through to “Idol,” but for this year their Sunday shows will do. Sunday at 10 (“The Alec Baldwin Show”) is cheap and could be profitable even with a small number.
Of all the networks, ABC always seems to over-order for midseason, and several of these shows get lost late in the broadcast year.
Bottom line for me is ABC is in the game from an entertainment perspective. They know who they are, and if they come up with a few more successes as they did this year, they will stay in the game.