ABC unveils modest fall TV schedule; new ad tool

Tue May 13, 2008 2:35pm EDT
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By Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - ABC on Tuesday rolled out a fall television schedule featuring just two new programs, one a traveling game show and the other a detective drama based on a popular British series, underscoring the lasting impact of a 14-week strike by screenwriters.

In contrast to a year ago, when ABC announced plans for a broad slate of 12 new television shows, the network has decided to bring back nearly all of its 2007-2008 comedies, dramas and reality series for next season.

Along with the modest prime-time schedule changes, Walt Disney Co's ABC announced a new audience measurement tool for advertisers that allows them to select shows based on a host of criteria, including viewer education or income.

ABC's head of advertising sales, Mike Shaw, described the current system of audience measurement based on broad viewership numbers as "oversimplified" and said the new data would allow advertisers to "take a deeper dive into the audience."

"Not one marketing dollar can be wasted this year," he said, referring to how closely advertisers are watching their budgets amid the economic slowdown.

Meanwhile, ABC's fall schedule is far less ambitious than usual, reflecting a development season cut short by the screenwriters' strike against major TV and movie studios. A deal between the sides ended the strike in February, too late for the normal number of pilots to be written and shot.

ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson said he was pleased with how the network's prime-time shows were performing prior to last fall's strike and wanted more time to develop new shows before making changes to the schedule. ABC's most popular shows include "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and "Ugly Betty."

"The big fact that you have to take away from where we are is this is an incredibly stable schedule," he told a news conference. "If you needed a ton of development for the fall schedule the strike would have been a really bad fact."   Continued...