Upfronts 2012: ABC Affiliates Want Improvement From Net

Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2012

ABC showcased some flashy new comedies at its upfront presentation in New York May 15, but its affiliates want to see stronger dramas in the last hour of prime. The affiliates board has voiced its concern about the vital 10 p.m. slot, leading into their local news, for years, and Bill Hoffman, board chairman, says the product isn't quite there yet.

"There was not enough forward movement at 10-11 p.m.," he said, "and that has been an area we have been laser-focused on for improvement."

ABC revealed new sitcoms for Tuesday (How to Live With Your Parents [For the Rest of Your Life] and The Family Tools), and revealed plans for a family-friendly comedy hour for Friday. For the most part, affiliates said ABC's presentation at Avery Fisher Hall in New York was solid, with smart strategy behind the scheduling, some promise in the comedies, and the usual razor zingers from Jimmy Kimmel.

"I was impressed -- there's a lot of potential," said Chris Tzianabos, VP and general manager at WLNE Providence, who watched via webcast. "It was pretty strong, compared to what I saw at the other networks."

Tzianabos applauded dramas Last Resort and Nashville, and the move of Revenge to Sundays. Such moves are of course risky, but can help grow new shows into hits. "ABC made their moves strategically and boldly," says Tim McVay, WSB Atlanta vice president and general manager.

A day before ABC presented, NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt boasted to the Radio City Music Hall room that NBC, long the cellar dweller in prime, had tied ABC for third this year.

ABC would rather not be linked to NBC in that race.

"We did not move up like we wanted to this year," said Hoffman.

Hoffman added that Once Upon a Time, Revenge and Suburgatory performed better than expected, and that affiliates were pleased with research showing ABC's upscale demographics. The affiliates would like to see more gender diversity -- i.e. males -- tuning in.

Perhaps the new fall slate will achieve that. "We like the idea of building out our comedy offerings," said Hoffman. "We like what that has done for our Wednesday nights. It is difficult to judge hit or miss from the pilots, [but] we need more big hits in primetime."

The affiliates body and board meet with ABC brass in Burbank May 21-22. Dave Boylan, VP and general manager of WPLG Miami, will have succeeded Hoffman atop the affiliates board by then.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.