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ABC execs: Back to happier days

ABC executives acknowledged they have made mistakes and that they are
going back to their roots.

Facing their worst-ever November sweeps ratings, ABC
executives Wednesday told TV reporters that have "strayed away" from the
network's core family audience chasing NBC's Must-See-TV audience.

And Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the show that helped take the network to first-place just a year ago, may not make it back onto ABC's schedule next season.

"Clearly we are in a very challenging period right now
and as you all know, just over a year ago we were number one with adults 18-49
and we had four shows in the top ten," ABC Entertainment co-chairman Lloyd Braun

"Of course the problem was that all four shows were Millionaire. By the end of last season as we have seen Millionaire's ratings drop 50% from the prior season's performance, the rebuilding efforts that we had begun have had to be greatly accelerated, we had hoped to have had at least two or three years with which we would be able to rebuild under the glow of Millionaire, unfortunately we got barely one. So our challenge now is to rebuild the network without that solid foundation that we had hoped to have."

Braun pointed to sitcoms from ABC's salad days, including Happy Days and its spin-off Laverne and Shirley, as the path to a ratings remedy.

Braun said he and co-chairman Stu Bloomberg have "re-allocated" fund to fast-track a dozen potential comedies in an effort to get two or three new shows on the air in mid-season.

"We are going to go back to what made ABC great, we are
going to embrace our core audience and block by block, we are going to
re-establish our brand and rebuild this network," Braun said.

"It's not going to be an overnight fix, we need to rebuild the network on the back of scripted programming."

As for Millionaire's status
next season, Braun said it's "unsure."

Network executives also said they will re-launch The Mole II this spring, as well as The Job and newcomer The Court is still slated for a March debut.

As for The Runner - the
expensive reality show that was originally scheduled to debut this season -
Braun says because of Sept. 11 fallout, it will be at least a year or two before
that ever makes it to ABC's air.

Jack Sander, president of the Belo TV group, which owns an ABC affiliate in
Dallas said he was 'very disappointed' in ABC's performance.

'I think the frustration from an affiliate point of view, is that there doesn't seem to be anything on the horizon that looks to turn that ship around. It's been not only a hard sweep period, but it's been a tough year for us at our ABC affiliates,' Sander said. - Joe Schlosser