After rescheduling its upcoming season of Bachelor in Paradise, which had been put on hiatus to investigate on-set sexual misconduct allegations, ABC execs thought they had come up with a “cheeky” promo to announce the show’s return. Instead, the spot ignited even more controversy when it aired—and the network has pulled the promo as a result of the backlash.
ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey talked about spot, the show’s sexual assault allegations and her network’s efforts to repeat a third consecutive fourth-place season finish in the 18-49 demo during her executive session at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Los Angeles.
“We were never looking for a way to sensationalize it,” said Dungey of the glib Backelor in Paradise promo, which almost seemed to celebrate the allegations that caused the show to temporarily be pulled from ABC’s summer schedule. The promo featured the voiceover, “The sun had almost set. Summer was almost ruined. Paradise was almost lost … Until it wasn’t.”
“We thought it was cheeky and funny and in-line with the show. However, the response told us otherwise, and we pulled it,” said Dungey.
The exec, who faced reporters on her first day back from maternity leave, said that when the show debuts on Aug. 14, the sexual assault allegations will be handled “in a respectful way. … Promos are very different than the show.” Dungey noted that the show’s investigation found no sexual misconduct, but deferred more specific questions about the show and the controversy to Warner Bros., which produces the Bachelor franchise.
ABC is going into the fall after finishing fourth place in the adults 18-49 demo for the second straight year. “I’m concerned about ratings,” Dungey admitted. “I’m pleased with our performance, but there’s a lot of work to do.”
She “wholeheartedly agrees” with NBC chief Robert Greenblatt’s assertion last week that he no longer sees broadcast as linear vs. digital, but linear plus digital. She said the ratings for “the majority” of ABC’s shows double in seven days of multiplatform viewing, but did not provide specifics when asked how the network was monetizing those audiences.
“We make money in a lot of different ways,” Dungey said. The network’s ad loads “shift and change” on digital platforms, and some of the deals that ad sales chief Rita Ferro makes include multiplatform viewing, and not just linear-only. Ownership is increasingly a priority for Disney, which is “looking at the big, global picture,” she said.
She is trying to shore up ABC’s schedule this fall by moving Black-ish to Tuesdays at 9 p.m., after being paired with Modern Family on Wednesdays for three seasons. “One of my goals when I first came into this job was to open up a second night of comedies on Tuesday,” said Dungey, and Black-ish helps to solidify that lineup.
Black-ish is “off the chain” in Season 4, said Dungey. “It’s very much on the ascent and we feel it has a long run ahead of it.”
This season will also be the final year for Scandal. “The final season of Scandal is going to be amazing,” said Dungey, adding that creator Shonda Rhimes’ plans for the last year are “nothing short of spectacular.”
The network announced that it had picked up several of its popular game show revivals, handing out renewals to Match Game, The $100,000 Pyramid and Celebrity Family Feud.
Awaiting American Idol and Roseanne
While Dungey’s focus is on launching her new fall lineup, much of the excitement and interest around ABC’s new shows involve a pair of midseason revivals: American Idol and Roseanne.
Dungey said she remains bullish about the prospects for American Idol—“I can’t wait; I’m so thrilled,” she enthused—despite the soft ratings for ABC’s music competition series Boy Band this summer. “Boy Band was a creative swing for us that we were excited to explore. …It didn’t connect with audiences in quite the way we’d hoped,” said Dungey, explaining that by definition, Boy Band has a “narrow” appeal, while Idol is far more “broad.”
While she wouldn’t confirm the reported $25 million salary for Katy Perry to appear as an Idol judge, Dungey said, “we do feel like we hit the jackpot though with Katy” and the network hopes “that American Idol will have a home on our schedule for quite some time to come.”
As for Roseanne, Dungey confirmed that Roseanne’s husband Dan, who had been revealed to be dead in the series finale, will be alive and well when John Goodman returns to play him in the revival. “I wouldn’t say it is ignoring the events of the finale, but I can confirm that Dan is still alive,” said Dungey of the revival.
Dungey was asked if the network is monitoring Roseanne star Roseanne Barr’s Twitter feed, which is frequently packed with conspiracy theories and other outlandish statements that could cause headaches for the network this season. “I try to just worry about things I can control,” said Dungey, adding that Barr announced her son will soon be taking over her Twitter feed, which is a decision that was hers alone and did not come from the network.