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ABC’s Burke Tells Buyers New Shows Are in the Works

Karey Burke at Disney's Roadshow (Image credit: Disney)

ABC’s new fall schedule--usually the climax of the network’s upfront presentation--wasn’t announced at the Disney Virtual Roadshow.

“The pandemic disrupted the traditional pilot season in a way that we couldn’t have predicted,” said Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment.

Related: Disney Shows Creative, Tech Muscle at Virtual Roadshow 

Uncertainty over when scripted shows will be available and when the new TV season will start is one reason this year’s upfront market is riven with uncertainty.

Related: Disney’s Ferro On This Year’s Market and the Upfront’s Future 

Burke said the network has adopted strategies to get shows on the air as soon as possible.

Related: Kimmel Praises ABC’s Social Distancing from Young Viewers 

ABC adopted a straight-to-series strategy for some of its strongest shows. Burke talked up two of them: Big Sky and Call Your Mother

Big Sky is a thriller set in Montana following three detectives as they try to rescue two missing sisters. Prolific producer David E. Kelley will be the showrunner. 

Kyra Sedgwick stars in Call Your Mother, a multi-camera comedy about an empty-nester who moves from Iowa to Los Angeles, where her kids live. “Naturally her kids realize they might actually need her more than they thought,” Burke said.

She also talked about the return of Supermarket Sweep, starring Leslie Jones.

Burke said that as production was shut down “we immediately ordered backup scripts from all of our pilot producers, which helped us be able to see more about the life of these series and make wiser choices as we ultimately go into production on some of these pilots.”

ABC also had its returning shows start writers rooms very early  “so that they would use this time and be very well prepared when production does get back up and running so that we won’t hit that natural squeeze that sometimes happens when shows are trying to scramble and get back on their feet with new material,” she said. 

“There actually was a silver lining for us and we feel like there are good things going forward that we’ve learned from this process that we will apply to development from her on out,” Burke said.

ESPN's Connor Schell

ESPN's Connor Schell (Image credit: Disney)

ESPN, meanwhile, is getting ready for live sports to grace its channels again.

“We’re trying to figure out how when sports resume, in many cases without fans in the stands, how we can bring the presentations to life in more interesting and intimate ways,” said Connor Schell, executive VP, content, at ESPN.

Schell said the sports network was trying to learn lessons from the high-rated NFL Draft, a virtual telecast that brought viewers into the homes of prospects and decision-makers. It was also taking notes on UFC events that have been staged without fans.

“We’re thinking about new camera presentations and angles and how we can use audio to capture natural sound in interesting ways and really provide an access that bring fans closer to the action,” he said.

“I think the creativity and the innovation that we’ve displayed over the last couple of months will serve us really well in this effort as we move toward the fall and more events com back on line,” Schell said.

Jon Lafayette
Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.