ABC Is Finally Getting the Message That Viewers Want Diversity on TV
ABC has had a disappointing season, and the network is looking to turn that around by placing its bets on a lineup with more diverse characters than has been seen on ABC, which has been known for sticking to the traditional formula, in the past. ABC finished in fourth place among the most desirable demographic for advertisers, adults ages 18 to 49 years old, and its primetime viewership fell 3 percent versus the previous season.
ABC’s most successful shows recently have been series that experiment with non-traditional characters. The Shonda Rhimes-created series Scandal, starring Kerry Washington as former White House communications director Oliva Pope, who starts her own crisis management firm, has been a blockbuster hit after debuting to low expectations that Americans would embrace a show led by a black woman. The series has also performed well with critics, and Washington is nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama for her work on the show.
Modern Family is another nontraditional series that ABC took a risk on only to reap a big reward. The sitcom is about three different families, including a gay couple who get married and adopt a child, as well as an older white man who marries a young Latina woman. Modern Family also saw some of the network’s best ratings.
ABC’s entertainment president, Paul Lee, said that the success of those two series has caused the network to move toward including more diversity in this coming year’s lineup. “America doesn’t look like that anymore,” Lee said of shows with all-white casts, speaking during ABC’s presentation at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, per the Los Angeles Times. “When I came here, I wanted to find shows that reflected America. That’s our job,” the British executive added.