LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - ABC television entertainment chief Stephen McPherson said on Tuesday the network benefited from NBC’s failed prime-time experiment with “The Jay Leno Show” but took no pleasure in its rival’s woes.
NBC’s decided to ax in February the primetime Leno show, which was intended to cut costs and increase the network’s audience in that time slot. Resisting the opportunity to gloat McPherson said he welcomed NBC’s decision to return to scripted dramas and comedies as a boost to the creative TV community.
McPherson told TV reporters in Los Angeles that Walt Disney Co’s ABC was “up at 10 p.m. by 8 to 10 percent” since NBC launched the Leno comedy talk show five days a week in September in the time slot traditionally reserved for serious drama.
But he added: “Seeing a great network tumble is not something we rejoice over. We are all competitive but we want a vibrant TV landscape...We want them (NBC) to be a good competitor.”
ABC is the second-most-watched U.S. network overall with an average audience of 9.1 million, after CBS Corp’s CBS
with 11.6 million. News Corp’s Fox has 8.7 million and General Electric Co’s NBC is fourth with 7.6 million.
McPherson said ABC had no plans to change its own late-night line up with Jimmy Kimmel in the wake of NBC’s plans to reshuffle its Leno, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon shows.
ABC has done particularly well with new comedies this season and McPherson on Tuesday announced that the network was picking up Courteney Cox’s “Cougar Town,” and comedies “Modern Family” and “The Middle” for the 2010-2011 season.
He said ABC wanted “the broadest audience possible” at the same time as maintaining its goal of ambitious and innovative programing like its award-winning adventure series “Lost,” whose sixth and final season starts in February.
He said “Lost,” one of the most expensive shows in TV because of its large cast and Hawaii location shooting, “proved that you could do serialized shows that are challenging to audiences and that you could put that kind of production value on the (small) screen.”
“We are going to continue to be ambitious and try to break new ground. That is where we have succeeded. Where we have been derivative is where we have failed,” he said.
ABC’s highest-rated show, “Dancing with the Stars,” will return for its 10th season on March 22. ABC has yet to announce the celebrity cast.
Ratings have slipped for the show, which is broadcast twice per season. But McPherson attributed the fall-off largely to casting, saying the number of star contestants would be reduced to 11 from 16.
“We still feel like it’s a good two-times-a-year show, as long as we can cast it well,” he said.
An audience of 19.2 million watched singer Donny Osmond win the “Dancing” finale in November 2009, the lowest-rated conclusion in the show’s four-year history.
Editing by Cynthia Osterman