Q&A: Stephen McPherson, ABC Entertainment


Related: Pilot Package: Will the strike's mark be permanent?

More pilot season coverage

The Hollywood Reporter:
What has been your main challenge this strike-impacted development season?
Stephen McPherson: The challenges this development season are really no different than any other development season -- finding the best mix of creative talent to make the best pilots possible. Because of the strike, the entire process has been delayed by several months, but we are actually on a slightly more relaxed schedule than in a normal pilot season.

THR: ABC had the most successful slate of new series last fall, but they were disrupted by the strike. What are your plans for relaunching this year's freshman crop?
McPherson: We will be coming back next fall with a very stable schedule, that has the largest number of successful series of any network. Because of this stability, we will be able to focus appropriate attention on our sophomore programs.

THR: You've opted not to make pilots until after the upfronts. Can you elaborate on that decision?
McPherson: Again, we are going through our normal process on a normal timeline. What we opted to do was not rush the creative process.

THR: Are you planning to launch any new scripted series in the fall?
McPherson: We have several that could be options for the fall, but our goal isn't to put a series on just because it is new, or scripted, or the fall. We will put together the best schedule with what we have available. We will be seeing 20 pilots over the next four months. We fully anticipate that many of these series will join our schedule as the season progresses.

THR: You've ordered some drama presentations this post-strike development season. Is this a model you're considering continuing in the future?
McPherson: We have three drama presentations this year. We have a strict budget process for pilots, and there are years where we have more projects that we would like to pursue than our budget allows. We can do several presentations for the cost of a pilot, and virtually every year we opt to divide up our projects this way.

THR: NBC did an early upfront with no pilots. Fox is launching an early pilot season so that at next year's upfront they will have multiple episodes. Is ABC looking to do things differently, or it will stick to the traditional development cycle?
McPherson: In a normal pilot season, we have the option of picking up dramas for fall or midseason. Because of the delayed pilot season this year, our options will be mid-season or fall '09. So I guess we are doing an early pilot season for '09 like Fox, but it is just semantics. The majority of our pilots for '09-'10 will be back on a normal cycle.

THR: Are you planning again to hold "Lost" back until midseason, or could its next season air in the fall?
McPherson: "Lost" will be midseason next year, and in its final season as well.

THR: On the comedy side, you found success with female-centered "Samantha Who?" this year. What is your comedy strategy for next season?
McPherson: "Samantha Who?" worked because it is a smart, funny, broad-appeal comedy. The fact that it is "female-centered" also makes it very compatible with ABC's dominance with the female audience. Our strategy is to find more shows like this, and broaden out to more male appeal as well.