ABC Says It’s a ‘Superior Platform’ to Streaming and Invests Heavily in Marketing Its Shows

Competing streamers want to advertise on the network, according to Karey Burke, but 'we just won't let them'

ABC president Karey Burke
'We are in it to win it,' said ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke.
ABC

ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke became the latest network exec to come out swinging against streaming competitors like Netflix during the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A.

“We believe we offer creators a superior platform: big, broad audiences, all year long,” said Burke.

The ABC exec cited Nielsen data from its SVOD Content Ratings that say 85% of streaming shows perform below a 0.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demo, “which is to say they really don’t perform at all.”

She blasted streamers “who tout shows as hits one day and cancel them the next, usually around Season 3.”

ABC’s pitch to creators, in contrast: “If you care about telling stories that appeal to lots of people and have the capacity to endure over time and be watched by generations, ABC is where you have the best chance of doing that,” said Burke.

And once that show exists, “it will get marketed. We invest heavily in making people aware of our shows,” said Burke. “Most shows on competing platforms these days, sometimes they get a billboard on Sunset [Boulevard], and sometimes they disappear into the sunset.”

ABC reaches 150 million people each month, because of the national network and its affiliates, she said, which is why the network still commands “a big premium” from advertisers. “Competing streamers want to advertise on our air; we just won’t let them.”

As the industry changes, “We are in it to win it. We know the stakes are high because broadcast really matters,” said Burke. “We move culture at a scale no other platform can.”

The network will try to do that again with The Wonderful World of Disney presents The Little Mermaid Live!, which will air Tuesday, Nov. 5. Burke said the telecast will combine live action, animation and puppetry. “It’s really kind of mind-blowing,” said Burke.

The project will star Auli’i Cravalho, the voice of Moana, as Ariel. Queen Latifah will play Ursula, and Shaggy will voice Sebastian the crab.

Disney is also developing a live-action movie version of The Little Mermaid, but that won’t come out until “long after” the ABC musical, said Burke, so there’s no worry about one project overshadowing the other.

Yet for all of ABC’s smack talk against streamers, the network does rely on those platforms for a growing segment of its audience. Burke said 28% of ABC viewing occurs on Hulu, which Disney assumed full operational control of in May. The median age of viewers watching ABC content is 33, which is “decades younger than broadcast,” said Burke.

ABC is one of several networks that have used their time at TCA press tour to tout their advantages to streaming services. Showtime said it is positioning itself as a bespoke alternative to “big box” rivals, while CBS said it offers TV creators a lot that streaming services can’t.

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