ABC Remains Optimistic on Upfront Spending

Disney Network Has a Slate of New TV Shows Looking for Ad Support

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- ABC executives remain confident that advertisers will spend a goodly amount on network TV, despite the difficult economy. The Walt Disney Co. network is out this week with a raft of new programming for which it's hoping to find advertiser support.

Stephen McPherson
Stephen McPherson Credit: ABC
Several TV executives have said marketers will indeed spend during this year's TV negotiations, but they will do so much later in the cycle as they try to hold dollars in the roiling economy. Mike Shaw, president-sales and marketing, ABC Television Network, said clients were taking longer to register budgets but would be doing so as a matter of course.

'Really optimistic'
Stephen McPherson, president-ABC Entertainment Group, speaking to reporters this morning, said, "Everyone has taken their lumps, but people are really optimistic" about having a fuller range of scripted programs, thanks to a development season uninterrupted by a writers strike, as happened last fall.

ABC trotted out a new Wednesday night of comedies and said it could launch as many as six new dramas in the 2009-2010 TV season. Mr. McPherson said the network's "big priorities" would be Wednesday night, as well as a Thursday launch for "Fast Forward," a drama with sci-fi undertones about a group of people trying to solve a mystery about what caused everyone in the world to black out at a single moment and get a glimpse of the future.

ABC's slate is notable for the amount of new programming on it. While there are many returning programs, including "Lost," "The Bachelor," "Brothers & Sisters," "Dancing With the Stars," "Desperate Housewives," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," "Supernanny," "Ugly Betty," "Wife Swap," "20/20" and "Saturday Night College Football," the network has at least one new show on the air each night Monday through Thursday in the first part of the season.

ABC will bring mid-season replacement "Castle" back to the air Mondays following a two-hour "Dancing With the Stars." Tuesdays will include "Shark Tank," a Mark Burnett-produced reality show about entrepreneurs, and "The Forgotten," a Jerry Bruckheimer drama about amateurs working to solve cases the police have given up on.

Four comedies and a drama
Wednesdays feature four new comedies, as well as a new drama: "Hank" stars Kelsey Grammer about a corporate chieftain who finds himself out of work and nearly out of money; "The Middle" features Patricia Heaton as the head of a middle-class family trying to keep its head above water; "Modern Family," shot documentary style, stars Ed O'Neill and looks at contemporary family life; "Cougar Town," which has already gotten some buzz, stars Courtney Cox as a recently divorced mother exploring dating anew. A new 10 p.m. drama, "Eastwick," is based on the John Updike novel "The Witches of Eastwick" and the movie subsequently made from it.

"Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" continue to run Thursdays, with ABC introducing "Flash Forward" in the 8 p.m. slot. ABC has moved "Ugly Betty" to Fridays at 9 p.m., where it is sandwiched between "Supernanny" at 8 p.m. and "20/20" at 10 p.m. That leaves college football on Saturday and the network's current Sunday-night lineup intact.

ABC said "The Bachelor" will air Mondays from 8 p..m. to 10 p.m. once "Dancing With the Stars" ends its run while the dance competition's hour-long results show will be replaced by "Scrubs" and "Better Off Ted."

Other programs on the docket include "The Deep End," a law drama; "Happy Town," where the first crime in seven years unlocks riddles and mysteries about the populace; "V," a remake of the 1980s TV miniseries about an alien invasion; and the last season of "Lost."

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