After a season that has seen ABC and Fox, in particular, dramatically
strengthen their schedules at times based on smash-success reality programs,
both networks told advertisers this week that they plan to back off reality next
"We are not going to become over-reliant on reality," one Fox source said.
"We used reality to get us back in the female business, and American Idol
and Joe Millionaire have really done that for us. That gives us a more
balanced audience to offer to advertisers."
Fox will continue to air reality -- including a tentatively titled Junior
Idol scheduled for this summer and the return of American Idol 3 next
January -- but it is working hard on developing scripted series, as well.
"You have to use the success of your unscripted series to help you build your
scripted assets," the Fox source said.
American Idol has helped Fox to do that, with Idol driving 24
to record highs, giving That 70s Show and Bernie Mac a boost and
helping new comedy Wanda at Large premiere to some of Fox's biggest total
launch audience for a comedy in three years.
ABC plans to back off on reality and focus on comedy next year, sources said.
With comedies and The Bachelor franchises the bright spots on ABC's
schedule this year, advertisers can expect to see more of the same next year.
ABC plans to dedicate only two hours of its schedule to reality next season,
one of which will usually contain The Bachelor and its spinoffs, the
other of which could be a reality wheel for shows such as Celebrity Mole
that have performed reasonably well for the network.
ABC also plans to build more nights next fall like it built Tuesday night
this year: light comedies from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., edgier comedies from 9 p.m. to
10 p.m. and character-driven dramas at 10 p.m.
The network has had a tough time with dramas this year, failing to develop a
ABC sources said the network feels that viewers will be ready to return to
character-driven dramas next year, with so few of them on the schedule this
Even hit serialized dramas, such as NBC's The West Wing and ER,
are failing to repeat well, but that doesn't mean they don't have a place on TV,
one ABC source said.
"First and foremost, we have to get a hit show," the source said. "Once that
happens, the success of the repeats doesn't matter as much."