In unveiling ABC's fall prime-time schedule, the network's new entertainment president, Paul Lee, played keys of affection to describe his slate of 13 new shows, calling them: "super cool," "a power bloc of drama" and "pure candy."
But one more practical word stood out: balance.
"What we have tried to do is get a nice balance -- stability for our established hits and real ambition for our new shows," Lee said Tuesday morning during a news conference at ABC's New York headquarters, a few hours before he was scheduled to take the stage to pitch his schedule to hundreds of advertisers and influential advertising buyers.
Finding a balance has been something that has eluded the Walt Disney Co.-owned network in recent years. After soaring to great heights six years ago with such blockbuster dramas as "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," and "Lost," ABC stumbled in its search for strong replacement dramas that appeal to both men and women.
Instead, the network has achieved ratings success with "Dancing with the Stars" and the breakout comedy "Modern Family," and has made more modest gains with "The Middle," "Castle" and "Body of Proof," starring Dana Delany as a medical examiner.
But advertisers have grumbled that the network, which will finish the current season in third place, was becoming a bit too female-centric. Nearly 65% of ABC's prime-time audience are women.
So now, similar to the middle-aged vixens of "Desperate Housewives," fetching the men has become something of a priority for Lee. The 50-year-old British executive, who transformed Disney's ABC Family cable channel, was picked last summer to run ABC Entertainment following the abrupt departure of former network programmer Stephen McPherson.