Road to the Upfront: ABC

Disney Network on a Tear This Year

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The Player: ABC

Key Executive: Mike Shaw, president-sales and marketing

The Ratings Game: ABC is the only broadcast network to experience ratings growth for the past two years. While the Walt Disney Co. network turned out all the breakout hits in the 2004-2005 season, this year it has had more modest success with "American Inventor" looking good and "Boston Legal" growing. Still, other shows crumbled. The much-anticipated "Emily's Reasons Why Not" was gone after a single episode, and "Crumbs" and "Sons & Daughters" have also failed to win a following.
Mike Shaw
Mike Shaw

What You'll Hear: This year ABC has a new night to sell, Mondays. How it will program the night this year is anyone's guess, but it's a safe bet that "Grey's Anatomy" will end up there. Cross-platform sales are also high on the TV-buyer radar this upfront and ABC will be touting its pilot initiative online. The network is planning to allow users to visit the site and download broadcast network programming. On the sales front, Mr. Shaw is pushing the firm's nascent research capabilities in the form of the M4 Optimizer.

Last year's upfront: ABC was praised last year for not gouging advertisers, despite the phenomenal success of "Desperate Housewives," "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy." The network went for relatively small rate increases between 4% and 6%. That upset rivals who weren't able to get much more no matter what their individual ratings performance.

The buyer's verdict: Gail Ettinger, exec VP-director of national broadcast, KSL Media, said: "They have kept the momentum going. ... In terms of pricing, they have yet to climb on a high horse. They may be losing 'Monday Night Football,' but they've been used to programming it [Monday] for half a year. If they have something really good to come out [on Monday] it remains to be seen." NBC will have 'Sunday Night Football,' but I don't think it will hurt 'Desperate Housewives."'
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