TCA: ABC's Lee Committed to Pilot Season 'For Foreseeable Future'

Complete Coverage: Winter Press Tour 2014

Pasadena — Asked about Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly’s decision to break from the process and CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler's comment about sticking to the model, ABC entertainment group president Paul Lee affirmed his network’s commitment to pilot season “for the foreseeable future” during his executive session as part of ABC's portion of the TCA winter press tour Friday.  

"The upfront is still important to us," he said. But he also noted that, “I’m a gradualist, for good or ill, and we are gradually moving off of it,” pointing to the decision to take Black Box and Secrets and Lies straight to series without pilots. “But it’s equally true, as Nina said I think extremely well, that the focus and the deadlines that pilots bring have been extremely successful for American television for 50 years.” He added, “I for one, am immensely proud of what our showrunners have done in pilot season,” pointing to shows like Scandal and Revenge.

ABC also reaffirmed the network’s commitment to limited series. Lee addressed last week's cancellation of Assets after only two episodes, calling the miniseries a “great experiment” that didn’t work. But he said he believes that miniseries can be developed and promoted in a way “where they become your number one priority,” and that the network is in the process of developing such series. “You are going to see limited series that get the full weight of an ABC priority launch,” he said. 

Lee defended the network launching new reality singing competition Rising Star, based on the hit Israeli series that allows viewers to vote live on contestants as the show airs, in the already crowded space that has seen ratings declines in the genre. 

“I think this one changes the rules,” he said describing the show's cross between “a massive talent show and, to some degree, The Gong Show.”

He expressed confidence that the network would develop a way to make the series work across multiple time zones, and floated the possibility of a June premiere.