While other networks are often evasive when it comes to ownership of their programming, ABC Entertainment chief Paul Lee has always been open about ABC’s drive to own its successful franchises. “We wanted to build up the studio,” he said at the January TCA, noting how many of the key ABC series came from the studio, including virtually all dramas.
The process escalated in May when ABC cancelled Forever, its only freshman drama that didn’t come from sibling ABC Studio. All of the network’s new scripted series for next season are owned by the network. All but two — comedies Dr. Ken (developed/co-produced by Sony TV) and Uncle Buck (developed/co-produced by Universal TV) — are fully owned. All ABC drama series, new and returning, are produced by ABC Studios.
Lee elaborated today on the subject again at TCA. “We’re able to monetize these shows not only in syndication and SVOD in the U.S. but all over the world,” he said regarding network ownership. “It allows us an ecosystem where you clearly create a portfolio of network series with a much richer ability… in this world of on-demand.”
Lee spoke of “the immense change in content” in the past five years, with previous set-in-stone broadcast rules being broken, like procedurals being more popular than serialized dramas, period shows and shows with morally ambiguous protagonists not working, and shows being successful only if they stick to with the tried-and-true makeup of an ensemble cast.
There will be two ABC period dramas set in Hollywood next season: dark crime mystery Wicked City (which Lee repeatedly called “intense,” dismissing suggestions that it may be glorifying violence against women) and Agent Carter, which is moving to Tinseltown for Season 2 and will reflect the glamour of 1940s Hollywood, he said.
Lee listed several shows that he felt could go on for many years, among them Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and Dan Fogelman’s Galavant, which he called “a sleeper hit.”