ABC Looks to Lure Advertisers With 'Roseanne' and 'American Idol' as Bait

By Joe Flint Features Dow Jones Newswires

Walt Disney Co.'s ABC is launching 10 new sitcoms and dramas, a new version of the musical talent show "American Idol," and spinoffs of "The Bachelor" and "Dancing With the Stars" for the 2017-18 television season.

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The network is also taking a trip down memory lane as it unveils its lineup to advertisers, with an eight-episode reboot of "Roseanne," featuring the original cast of the hit comedy that was canceled in 1997.

The overhaul of ABC's prime-time schedule comes after a season in which it was down 8% in viewers and 11% in the key advertising demographic of adults aged 18-49, according to Nielsen.

Despite those declines, ABC will still likely finish the season tied with Comcast Corp.'s NBC for first place in adults 18-49, if sports programming isnt included in the ratings.

Bringing back "American Idol" next year is ABC's biggest bet. The show ended its 15-season run on Fox just over a year ago, after years of declining ratings and increased production costs. In its final season, "American Idol" averaged just over 11 million viewers, down from a peak of 30 million.

"This is a show viewers love to watch live," said ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey on a conference call Thursday, adding that it will be a strong platform to promote the network's other shows.

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As for whether "American Idol" will be profitable for ABC, Ms. Channing joked that the TV business is "full of red ink," before adding that the show's budget is still "a work in progress."

The return of "American Idol" so soon after its heavily promoted final season on Fox left that network somewhat irritated. On a conference call with reporters Monday, Fox TV Group Chairman Dana Walden said the network spent $25 million promoting the final season and felt it would be "extremely fraudulent" to bring the show back so quickly.

Asked about the quick comeback for "American Idol," Ms. Dungey said, "We think it's a good time to bring the series back." She added that the show is a good fit with ABC's other unscripted programs "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Bachelor."

Both of those programs are also growing. Next year ABC is launching "The Bachelor Winter Games," a competitive dating show featuring members of previous seasons of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." The network will also debut "Dancing with the Stars Junior," in which celebrity children and children of celebrities will compete on the dance floor.

In the fall, ABC will premiere four new dramas and one comedy. Dramas include "The Good Doctor," about a surgeon with autism and savant syndrome; "The Gospel of Kevin," about a self-obsessed man who finds salvation after a celestial being encourages him to make the world better; and "Ten Days in the Valley" starring Kyra Sedgwick as a single mother whose daughter goes missing.

ABC also has a new drama from Marvel Television called "Marvel's Inhumans" based on the comic book series of the same name. The network's new fall comedy is "The Mayor" about a rapper whose publicity stunt of running for mayor of his town backfires when he wins.

Midseason shows from ABC include "For the People," a legal drama executive produced by Shonda Rhimes whose production company Shondaland is behind ABC's hits "Scandal," which will enter its final season, and "How to Get Away With Murder."

Returning shows include "Blackish," "American Housewife" and "Speechless." Canceled shows include the comedies "Dr. Ken" and "Last Man Standing."

Asked about criticism that "Last Man Standing" was canceled over lead actor Tim Allen's Republican political leanings, Ms. Dungey said the decision was based on the fact that ABC chose to get out of comedies altogether on Friday nights.

ABC also said its late-night host Jimmy Kimmel will again host the Oscars next year.

Disney's ESPN also made its case to advertisers Tuesday. ESPN has faced challenges from consumers cutting the cord to their cable subscriptions and increased competition from rivals including Fox Sports. Last month, ESPN laid off around 100 staffers including several high-profile on-air personalities.

"We are making changes from the most dramatic position of strength," said ESPN Chief Executive John Skipper. He noted that the flagship channel is on new over-the-top live video services including those launched by Google's YouTube and Hulu, which is "good news for our ecosystem."

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 16, 2017 14:27 ET (18:27 GMT)