Showtime’s David Nevins wasn’t the only network president I interviewed at TCA’s winter press tour. I also had some time with ABC Entertainment President Lee, which I turned into this Adweek story about how things are finally looking up for ABC after a decade of dwelling in, or near, the 18-49 ratings basement.
Lee walked me through some of the network’s successful (and not-so-successful) moves this season, including the brilliant move to brand Thursday’s all-Shonda Rhimes lineup as TGIT:
Lee’s most successful play this season was handing over his Thursday night lineup to Rhimes: Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, both of which she created, and How to Get Away with Murder, which she executive produces. Most critically, he branded the night TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday), an ode to the TGIF Friday night comedy block that was a ratings hit in the ’90s.
“We took a brand that my boss Bob Iger invented [in 1989], TGIF, and we burnished it. It was very sweet to take a dormant brand and reinvent it on Thursday as something that was just as fresh today as that was then,” said Lee.
But as successful as TGIT has been, Lee isn’t sure he can replicate it on another night. “A brand has to match the shows that are there. It has to be extremely high quality. It has to capture the mood of the nation. So it’s very difficult,” he said. “It takes time to build them, and it takes extraordinary quality and patience.”
The network still has a long way to go, but my talk with Lee was a good reminder that thanks to Rhimes and several other big swings this season (including freshman hits Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat), ABC is finally figuring itself out.