ABC bets TV viewers will marvel at superhero show

Tue May 14, 2013 4:20pm EDT
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By Liana B. Baker and Lisa Richwine

(Reuters) - Walt Disney Co's ABC network is tapping its blockbuster "Avengers" franchise for a new TV show, looking to reverse a ratings decline that put it last of the four largest networks among audiences coveted by advertisers.

The network is so confident in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." that it scheduled the show on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. eastern time, where it will face off against TV's top-rated scripted show, CBS' crime juggernaut "NCIS."

ABC plans to air a total eight new shows this fall, according to a schedule of its Fall lineup that was released by the network. It will also retool its long-running hit "Dancing with the Stars," cutting it back from two nights to one after its ratings weakened.

Its "S.H.I.E.L.D." offering is ABC's first effort to translate the big-screen success of Disney's Marvel comics movie franchise to television.

Last year's Marvel movie "The Avengers" and current hit "Iron Man 3" had the industry's largest- and second-largest box office openings in the United States and Canada, and "The Avengers" ranks third in all-time domestic ticket sales behind "Avatar" and "Titanic."

The new TV show will star "Avengers" actor Clark Gregg as agent Phil Coulson, who assembles a small group of agents to investigate strange happenings around the world. "Avengers" movie director Joss Whedon, who created the hit sci-fi TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," will serve as executive producer.

"We believe S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to recruit a whole new audience coming in," ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee told reporters on a conference call. "And we don't necessarily think that audience is the same as NCIS."

The show tested well in "all four quadrants," meaning young and old, men and women, Lee said.   Continued...

The logo for the ABC television network is shown on a video screen at the Disney ABC Television Group summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 16, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser