Happily Ever After: ABC Goes Long With ‘Once Upon a Time’

Back-nine orders for three Alphabet Net series

After airing just two episodes of Once Upon a Time, ABC is putting in a back-nine order for the fairy-tale drama.

Holding down the fort in the Sunday 8 p.m. time slot, Once Upon a Time premiered Oct. 23 as the highest-rated new drama of the season, notching a 4.0 among adults 18-49. The series opener also delivered an impressive 12.9 million total viewers against Game 4 of the World Series and Sunday Night Football.

Once stayed strong in its second airing, delivering 11.7 million viewers and a 3.9 rating in the demo.

ABC also gave a full-season order to the Tim Allen comedy Last Man Standing, which bowed to 13.2 million viewers and a 3.6 rating on Oct. 11. When seven days of DVR playback are factored in, the premiere jumped 15 percent to 15.2 million viewers and grew 22 percent in the demo, finishing with a 4.4.

Through four episodes, Last Man Standing is averaging 10.7 million viewers and a 3.1 in the demo, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data.

Once and Last Man join Suburgatory and Revenge as the new ABC series to receive full-season pickups.

Still on the bubble is the Sunday night period piece Pan Am, which has faltered in the 10 p.m. time slot. ABC this week threw out a lifeline to the show, ordering five new scripts.

Pan Am took flight on Sept. 25, drawing 11.1 million viewers and a 3.1 rating. It has since lost nearly half of its premiere audience, delivering 5.46 million viewers and a 1.8 rating on Oct. 30.

A favorite of ABC entertainment president Paul Lee, Pan Am garners a good deal of time-shifted viewing. When DVR playback is layered into the original L+SD numbers, Episode 4 of Pan Am saw a 44 percent lift in the demo (2.6, up from 1.8). 

Note that L7 data is useful for gauging absolute deliveries/general ratings trends, but is not the established currency for media buyers. Network ad sales execs sell against C3 ratings—shorthand for the average commercial minutes in live programming plus three days of DVR playback. So while L7 can give programmers a better sense of a series’ overall reach, these numbers are not viable in the ad marketplace.

Along with Pan Am, the other new series ABC has yet to make a ruling on is the sitcom Man Up! Following Last Man Standing in the Tuesday 8:30 p.m. slot, Man Up! has underwhelmed, losing around a third of its lead-in audience. The third installment drew 6.36 million viewers and a 1.8 rating on Nov. 1.

Since the season began, ABC has canceled just one new series, halting production on Charlie’s Angels after just four episodes.

As it was setting the course for its new shows, ABC also made a long-term commitment to a sophomore series, picking up Happy Endings through the end of the season. The ensemble comedy occupies one of the most coveted time slots on TV, leading out of the smash hit Modern Family Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.

Through five episodes, Happy Endings has averaged 7.29 million viewers and a 3.1 rating. Modern Family has attracted 13.2 million viewers and a 5.6 rating, trailing only CBS’s Two and a Half Men (18.9 million/6.8) for supremacy among all scripted TV series.

Season to date, ABC is in third place behind Fox and CBS, averaging 9.7 million total viewers and a 2.8 rating (down 2 percent from this time last year). 

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