This fall, three hour-long dramas created by Rhimes will run back-to-back-to-back on Thursday night:
Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment, touted Rhimes Tuesday as the "new president of entertainment on Thursday nights" as he pitched the network's upcoming season at
Advertisers usually pay a premium for commercial time on Thursdays as they try to influence weekend spending.
"I call her the Charles Dickens of the 21st century," added Lee, who is British. "If Charles Dickens was black and a woman."
The network — which is poised to end the season in fourth place among the advertiser-preferred demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49 — needs to field a strong new hit. This is the third year the network has finished fourth in that category among the Big Four networks.
But ABC should finish the season in third place among total viewers, averaging 7.5 million viewers in prime time. During the presentation, the network's late-night host
"The ABC I work at is not in first place," Kimmel told the crowd. "In fact, we might need to crash on your couch."
Lee worked to highlight the network's achievements in social media, and downplayed its ratings woes.
"We still have work to do but we are finishing the season strong," Lee said.
The Disney-owned network still has its bright spots. It can boast that it reaches one of the most affluent audiences in television. It also delivers more women than any other broadcast network with its textured dramas that feature strong female characters. The network has positioned itself as the estrogen bookend to another Disney property — testosterone-heavy ESPN.
Seven of its entertainment shows regularly rank in Nielsen's Top 20 broadcast programs, most notably Rhimes' long-running medical soap "Grey's Anatomy." The show remains broadcast's No. 1 drama among viewers under 50, while Rhimes' "Scandal" is still keeping water coolers steamy. Also,
While its ratings decline in the 18-49 demographic versus last year is relatively modest 5% — compared with double-digit dips at
"ABC really knows its core audience but the network has struggled a bit to expand beyond that," said Amanda Richman, president of the advertising buying firm
Only two dramas are returning from this year's freshman class — "Resurrection" and
For fall launch, ABC will leave its Sunday and Monday lineups intact — with new hit "Resurrection" and veteran
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." will serve as Tuesday's anchor. The comic-book-inspired show will be joined by newcomers "Forever," a supernatural drama, and "Selfie" and "
On Wednesday, the network's hit comedy "Modern Family" is expected to continue to shine at 9 p.m. "The Goldbergs" will change nights and move into the 8:30 p.m. slot before the Emmy winner next season. Meanwhile, the coveted post-"Modern Family" slot goes to the
With Thursday set as a Shonda Rhimes Night, new comedy "Cristela," from stand-up comedian Cristela Alonzo, moves into the Friday at 8:30 p.m. slot.
Tuesday also marked the last upfront presentation for Anne Sweeney, the president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, who announced earlier this year that she was stepping down after 10 years in the top entertainment post to become a TV director.
"I know you'll do a great job," Sweeney said. "And don't forget, I'm still a shareholder."