May 11, 2015

NIELSENWAR Full Season Network Report Cards: ABC

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Other Nielsenwar Network Report Cards:  FOX, NBC

Most improved.

Full Season To Date (thru May 3) 18-49 Rating Average:  1.61 (#3), down 1.9% from last season

Season Grade:  B+

What Happened:

Sunday:  Once Upon A Time had a strong Frozen-fueled Fall, but lagged in its Spring cycle, and if that trend continues, it could be a season away from becoming a problem. On the other hand, Secrets & Lies was a surprisingly successful companion show, although since it told a closed-end story, it will need to be rebooted next season.  The 10PM slot has been an issue for the network for several seasons now, and will now require a replacement for Revenge.

Monday:  Dancing With the Stars, after free-falling for several seasons, seems to have stabilized at a decent if unexciting level.  That’s where Castle is, too, but the problem with that show is that it’s increasingly expensive (at the time this is being written, there’s still no deal in place for Stana Katic), and it’s probably time for ABC to look for an exit strategy.

Tuesday:  Fresh Off the Boat gave a nice lift to the previously dead 8PM hour.  Agents of SHIELD is more of a corporate asset than a strong series, but in some form or another it’s likely to stick around as long as Disney is reaping billions from Marvel movies.  (The return of the ratings-challenged Agent Carter was a bigger surprise.)  10PM is another hole ABC needs to fill.

Wednesday:  After years of tinkering, the 8-10PM comedy block is finally clicking.  Now the question is whether to tinker some more, and move one of the pieces to another night.  Also, now that Empire will air in the 9PM hour on Wednesdays in both Fall and Spring, whether to move Black-ish, dented by the competition last season, out of the juggernaut’s way.  Nashville is a survivor, and if CBS can’t do better at 10PM than Stalker or CSI: Cyber, it could keep singing for a while.

Thursday:  An absolute triumph, both in content and marketing.  Other than American Crime (the renewal of which was the biggest shock of last week), the night couldn’t have gone more according to plan, with new life for Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal emerging the decisive victor over The Blacklist, and How To Get Away With Murder as the season’s biggest new hit until Empire came along.  Next season, Shonda Rhimes will have 4 shows on the air with the new The Catch, and the network’s issue will be whether to put that into the 10PM Spring slot (How To Get Away With Murder will again have 15 episodes due to Viola Davis’s deal) and move Crime elsewhere.

Friday:  Shark Tank is the strongest show of the night on any network, and Beyond the Tank is looking like a solid companion–so much so that the renewal of Last Man Standing was a modest surprise.

What’s Coming:

A lot.  ABC has the most varied group of new shows on the way, with the Biblical Of Kings and Prophets, the thriller Quantico, and the crime anthology Wicked City joining the latest from Shondaland and a couple of soaps.  On the comedy side, the network is going for brand names, bringing back The Muppets and Uncle Buck, along with a Ken Jeong comedy, with the only unknown quantity The Real O’Neals.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."