TV Upfronts: 5 Takeaways From the ABC Presentation

The Goldbergs

Stars: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jeff Garlin, George Segal, Hayley Orrantia, Darien Provost, Troy Gentile, Sean Giambrone
Team: Adam F. Goldberg, Doug Robinson, Bill Wee; director - Seth Gordon

A dysfunctional Wonder Years set in the simpler times of the 1980s, inspired by Adam F. Goldberg's childhood.

ABC seemed to win over ad buyers early with a funny taped Scandal spoof featuring Kerry Washington, Jimmy Kimmel and Disney-ABC Television Group president and good sport Anne Sweeney. But it was the network's five-minute clip of creator Adam F. Goldberg's autobiographical comedy, The Goldbergs, that received the best audience reaction at the upfronts thus far -- and Rebel Wilson's in-person introduction for her star vehicle, Super Fun Night, proved that she could be a Kimmel-in-waiting.

Sure, ad sales chief Geri Wang used the platform to stress the network's sophisticated measurement capabilities and upscale demos, but it's likely the network's shows are what will ultimately sway media buyers.
Here are five takeaways from the lively ABC presentation:

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1. ABC is NOT a TV network. Sweeney opened the network's Tuesday afternoon upfront presentation by telling media buyers gathered at Avery Fisher Hall that ABC really isn't one of those legacy media companies in decline. “ABC has never been a traditional media company, from the beginning ABC has been an innovator,” she told the packed theater. Disney-ABC has been an innovator in the digital and app space, but it's also a convenient time to talk up all of those other delivery systems thereby diverting attention from the network's sub-par 18-49 TV ratings. Sweeney ticked off a flurry of initiatives including the just-announced Watch ABC authenticated app, which allows viewers to live stream the network on smart phones, tablets and computers. It's currently available in New York and Philadelphia via ABC-owned stations, and will expand to six additional ABC stations in the summer with the inclusion of more station groups by the fall. The Watch ABC app follows the launch of the Watch Disney app, which Sweeney pointed out has notched 14 million downloads.

2. ABC is No. 1 in a Lot of Metrics. Sure, not in the demo that that matters most to the Madison Avenue audience: adults aged 18-49. In that demo, the net is expected to round out the season in fourth place. But no matter. According to ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee and ABC sales president Wang, ABC is No. 1 among upscale viewers, No. 1 among women 18-49 and the No. 1 brand in television. "Five or 10 years ago, that wouldn't have mattered," Lee noted from the stage. "In a world of choice, it is the key competitive advantage."

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3. Kimmel Kills Again. In his 11th year as ABC's chief insulter, Kimmel remains the most honest presenter at the upfronts. This year, he offered media buyers a little bit of perspective as they headed into negotiations with his network's ad sales team: “You are about to invest billions of dollars in a network that rolled a 400-pound comedian off a diving board last week.” Of course, ABC's schedule and his Madison Avenue audience weren't the only ones on the receiving end of Kimmel's jabs. NBC was the hardest hit, but Univision ("Do they lie to you in Spanish?" he wondered aloud), Fox and CBS ("those smug mother-f---ers) got some digs as well. See Kimmel's funniest lines here.
4. Rebel Wilson is Super Fun. The Super Fun Night star gave Kimmel a run for his money -- OK, not quite, but she did offer a welcomed dose of humor amid a flurry of ratings spin and packaged clips. "This show is really the anti-Sex and the City," she told advertisers of her new female ensemble comedy, adding: "When these ladies are eating out at night, they're not talking about dick." She also warned that she "won't be doing a Lena Dunham," referring to the Girls star's frequent strip-downs, and quipped that Lee had killed her desired beat-boxing theme song because it "was shit." The raunchy clip of her new comedy, featuring the Wilson audiences will recognize from Bridesmaids, played to big laughs.
5. The Value of Seamless Flow. Lee -- or Harry Potter, as Kimmel dubbed him -- preached the significance of “seamless flow” across the ABC schedule. Take the “empowered women” block on Thursdays with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. (Washington, arguably the night's most empowered woman, was on stage with the cast of Scandal, a big vote of confidence for a show that's experiencing a breakout sophomore season.) Or Sunday night, which will be for “sophisticated emotional, quality storytelling” with Once Upon a Time, Revenge and limited series Betrayal. Of course, the concept doesn't work on every night. There doesn't seem to be much cohesion on Friday evenings with Last Man Standing, The Neighbors, Shark Tank and 20/20.