So far, broadcasters have taken two approaches to their fall schedules in the midst of Covid-19. Fox and The CW constructed mostly pandemic-proof lineups featuring acquired shows and other already-filmed programming, while CBS opted to go ahead with a “hopeful” fall schedule with its usual programming that won’t be able to air until production can resume.
ABC, however, is taking a different approach: The network has announced its slate for the 2020-21 broadcast season, but isn’t yet ready to unveil a fall schedule that could be upended by continued production delays.
So the network said it is bringing back 19 current shows for next year, and has given a straight-to-series order to two additional programs, but is staying mum about when any of those series will air.
ABC renewed 13 shows today: American Housewife, The Bachelor, Black-ish, The Conners, Dancing With the Stars, The Goldbergs, A Million Little Things, Mixed-ish, The Rookie, Shark Tank, Stumptown, 20/20 and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. They join the six series that the network had previously picked up: America’s Funniest Home Videos, American Idol, The Bachelorette, The Good Doctor, Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19.
The network also has Supermarket Sweep on tap for next season, and still hasn’t announced a premiere date for this year’s midseason sitcom United We Fall, which could also potentially air in the fall.
A pair of new series orders have been added to the mix for next season: Big Sky, a thriller created by David E. Kelley based on the Highway mystery series of novels from C.J. Box, and sitcom Call Your Mother, which stars Kyra Sedgwick as an empty-nest mom who decides to reinsert herself back into her kids’ lives.
The network has canceled drama Emergence, alternative series Kids Say the Darndest Things and comedies Bless This Mess, Schooled and Single Parents, but has not yet made a decision about midseason dramas For Life and The Baker and the Beauty.
ABC is touting that it is the No. 1 entertainment network for the season in adult 18-49 viewers—the network ties NBC and Fox with a 1.1 rating but ekes out a narrow victory in demo viewers (1.452 million, ahead of Fox’s 1.443 million and NBC’s 1.368 million). However, that ranking excludes sports programming, which is among the most popular on TV. With sports factored in, Fox is the true No. 1 network in the 18-49 demo, nabbing its first season win in eight years.
“At a time when we are physically apart and shared experiences matter more than ever, these shows will build on the strategy that has made us No. 1 this season—bringing people together, creating cultural moments, and making content that entertains and inspires across generations and demographics,” said ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke in a statement. “Our top priority now is to work with our studio partners to ensure a safe return to production so that we can build on the strong momentum of a winning lineup with measured bets on new series that will invigorate our air and continue to deliver the quality programming that our viewers have come to expect and love.”
ABC chose to forgo a fall lineup for now as broadcast schedulers have been working harder than ever during the pandemic to piece together a network lineup without knowing when production will be able to resume.
“The biggest struggle in scheduling now is you have no idea what pieces of the puzzle you have. And every day, a piece falls off the table, or somebody pulls one out and puts it on the table,” Andy Kubitz, evp of programming strategy at ABC Entertainment, told Adweek last month. “So right now, your long-term strategy is about two months and the short-term strategy is the next two days.”