The American Broadcasting Company, known as ABC, is one of the big four US television networks, beamed into US homes through some 245 affiliate stations nationwide. Since 1996, the business has been a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Although the fortunes of all four networks tend to fluctuate from season to season, ABC had arguably a harder time than most in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It slipped to the bottom of the rankings towards the end of the 1990s before being brought back to life by the enormous but comparatively short-lived success of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire'. Another slump occurred between 2002 and 2004, before the network enjoyed a half-hearted revival as a result of hit series including 'Desperate Housewives', 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Lost'. More recently though it has been stuck in 3rd or 4th place by ratings. It had a big success in 2018 with the reboot of 'Roseanne' only to then cancel the show in the wake of its star's racist Tweet. Other key shows include 'Grey's Anatomy' (now in its 14th season), 'Modern Family', 'The Bachelor' and 'American Idol' - all coming to the end of their natural lives, as ratings steadily decline - and newer hits 'The Good Doctor' and 'The Goldbergs'. For the 2018/19 season, ABC was the #3 network by total viewers and #4 in the 18-49 demographic. 'The Good Doctor' was its only show in the Top 20 most watched. For years, ABC has been overshadowed financially within the group's media networks portfolio by the hugely successful ESPN sports brand, the world's most lucrative cable property, as well as several Disney-branded kids' networks, led by the Disney Channel. Broadcast revenues were $8.3bn in ye 2019, up sharply on the year before but still only a little more than half what the group's cable networks generate. ABC content is also available in the US on streaming platform Hulu.com, in which Disney was originally a partner with Fox and Comcast. It took over control of that service in 2019, and that same year the group launched streaming service Disney+ in the US as a direct competitor to Netflix. It has been steadily expanding the footprint of Disney+ since then into international markets. By Feb 2020, Disney+ had signed up almost 28m subscribers. Ben Sherwood was co-chairman of Disney Media Networks with principal responsibility for ABC. Channing Dungey was president of the main ABC Entertainment content division. Both quit the group ahead of the merger of Disney Media Networks with newly acquired Fox Networks, whose Peter Rice and Dana Walden will head their respective departments.
Capsule checked 31st August 2018
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Historical profile information for ABC
Adbrands Daily Update 7th Oct 2019: Ahead of the imminent launch of its Disney+ streaming service, the House of Mouse has ruled that it will not accept advertising on its other entertainment channels - for example, US network ABC, cable channels such as Freeform or streaming service Hulu - from Netflix. It had originally decided not to accept ads from any rival streamer - AT&T, Comcast and Apple are among the many rivals who also have new OTT services - but then backed down from that position. It will now accept ads from Comcast's Peacock, AT&T's HBO Max and Apple+. Just not Netflix. There's one exception: ESPN will still run Netflix advertising (if it is booked).
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd May 2019: CBS was once again America's most watched broadcaster by prime time viewers, its 11th consecutive #1 position, and had the top three scripted shows. 'Big Bang Theory' was - for the last time ever - the country's #1 most watched scripted show, with an average of 17.3m viewers. 'NCIS' and 'Big Bang' spin-off 'Young Sheldon' were the #2 and #3 shows respectively. However, total numbers continued to slide: CBS averaged a total of 8.9m viewers nightly for the season ending this week, down from 9.0m last year and 9.6m the year before. Indeed, all networks except Fox reported year-on-year declines. NBC was the #2 network overall (7.2m viewers), and led the prized 18-49 demographic for the 3rd straight year. Its 'Sunday Night Football' was the country's single most watched regular show at 19.3m viewers. ABC and Fox were in 3rd and 4th place again by total viewers; Fox tied CBS for the #2 position in 18-49ers.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Nov 2018: Disney's acquisition of the Fox TV production business and other assets, due to complete early next year, is already causing a big shake-up at its existing ABC business. The appointment of Fox executives Peter Rice and Dana Walden to lead the soon-to-merge production division has prompted the departure of several incumbents. Disney/ABC TV president Ben Sherwood has already resigned; he was joined this week by ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey. A 14-year veteran of ABC, she was, notably, the first African-American president of any US TV network when appointed almost three years ago. Her successor is Karey Burke, previously head of programming at ABC cable strand Freeform. Dungey herself signed instead to Netflix as VP, original content, overseeing programming from several former ABC showrunners including Shonda Rimes.
Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Oct 2018: Disney said Fox's Peter Rice will become chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks, taking over from Ben Sherwood. Dana Walden will be chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment.
Adbrands Weekly Update 31st May 2018: From returning champion to industry pariah in 180 characters. ABC cancelled plans for a second season of 'Roseanne' in the wake of an appalling late-night Tweet issued by its loudmouth star comparing black politician Valerie Jarrett, a former advisor to President Obama, to an ape. Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment (and who also happens to be black), described Roseanne Barr's tweet as "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values". She received the full support of her immediate boss Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television, and her ultimate boss, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger. There was also widespread public condemnation from other members of the entertainment community, including 'Roseanne' co-star Sara Gilbert. More than a hundred members of the 'Roseanne' cast and crew have lost their jobs as a result of the star's behaviour. Barr later apologised for her "bad joke", which she agreed was "indefensible". In one Tweet she blamed her actions on the sedative Ambien; its makers Sanofi responded with the comment that "Racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication." The latest series of 'Roseanne' has been removed from streaming service Hulu and its 80s predecessors from all Viacom cable channels; Barr herself was dropped by her agent ICM. It was a bold and brave move by ABC: the triumphant return of 'Roseanne' was the network's most popular show by far in the season just ended, attracting an average of 13.5m viewers, more than any other regular show apart from top-ranked 'Sunday Night Football' and long-running sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory'. The planned second season formed the centerpiece of ABC's recent upfront presentation to advertisers. Kantar estimates a potential cost of as much as $60m in lost ad revenues. However, as Disney chief Iger tweeted in response to the cancellation, "There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing."
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