'Roseanne' Cancellation a Blow to ABC at Upfront Sales Time

News that ABC is canceling its highest rated series, Roseanne, comes as ABC looks to sell advertising for next season in the annual upfront market.

Two weeks ago, ABC opened its ABC upfront presentation to advertisers with star Roseanne Barr lip-synching. The controversial, Trump-supporting actress famously mangled the National Anthem at a ballgame years ago.

During the presentation, the Disney-owned network emphasized Roseanne’s status as the No. 1 new show, with Ben Sherwood, president of the Disney/ABC Television Network even joking that attendees might be playing a drinking game based on how many times ABC mentioned the show.

On Tuesday, following a racist tweet by the star that set off a firestorm, Disney Entertainment President Channing Dungey said the show was canceled, calling the star’s statement abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”

How much damage will the cancellation do to ABC’s upfront sales efforts?

In a limited run last season, Roseanne generated $22.8 million, with average spots costing about $102,000, according to iSpot.TV.

With the show generating surprisingly high ratings in its freshman season, rates were expected to be much higher for season 2.

Another research company, Kantar Media, estimated revenue for this season of Roseanne at $45 million.

Had ABC run 13 episodes of Roseanne next season, as had been planned, according to reports, potential ad revenue from those first-run episodes would have been as much as $60 million, Kantar said. Repeat airings of telecasts would have brought in additional ad revenue.

Standard Media Index said advertisers paid an average of $167,159 for a 30-second spot on Roseanne in April. That compares to $154,708 for Modern Family. The average sitcom on the Big 4 broadcast networks garnered an average of $108,523 for a 30-second spot in April, SMI said.

SMI said ABC took in $1.87 million for the two-episode premiere of the Roseanne revival on March 27. The next five episodes of Roseanne brought in $8.2 million in ad revenue for the network, SMI said.

The top sponsor of Roseanne was Pepsi, spending more than $6 million on spots running on the show, according to iSpot.TV. Other advertisers spending more than $2 million on Roseanne included Samsung Mobile, Microsoft, McDonald’s, T-Mobile, Hotels.com, Mountain Dew, PetSmart and Warner Bros.

According to another research company, Canvs, which measures emotional response by viewers, Roseanne was the most-reacted-to sitcom on TV.

Roseanne’s level of dislike reactions was nearly 20 times higher than the average sitcom and its level of hate reactions was more than 18 times the average.

Over the course of the 2018 season, social conversations referencing Roseanne generated more than four times as many emotional reactions than Brooklyn Nine Nine, which had the next-most conversations. 

Reruns of the original Roseanne series ran on TV Land, Paramount Network, CMT , Logo and Laff, generating more than $19 million in ad sales among them during the eight weeks original episodes of the revived Roseanne aired on ABC (March 27th through May 23), according to iSpot.TV. 

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.