We’re now halfway through upfronts week, though Disney’s combined presentation on Tuesday was so long that some buyers probably feel like the finish line should already be in sight. Before you head over to the WarnerMedia and CBS presentations today, relive the most—and least—surprising moments from Disney’s upfront event and press conference on Tuesday. (If you missed our analysis of Monday’s events, you can find it here.)
ABC’s about-face on new series orders
Each year during upfronts week, ABC can always be counted on to order several more new shows than any of its broadcast competitors. However, new ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke told reporters Tuesday morning that she has pulled the plug on that approach.
“Last year, ABC launched seven new shows in the fall and four at midseason, which I felt was just too many. Too many messages to get out there, and too much for consumers to be able to try to focus on,” she explained. Instead, less is more when it comes to freshman orders, as the network shifts to “only launching the few [shows] that we think can break through” and focusing more marketing dollars on nurturing long-running shows.
It’s one of the strongest indications yet that Burke is taking a different approach to the broadcast schedule, and breaking the familiar cycle of canceling a show with so-so ratings in hopes of finding something more popular, only to have that new series fare even worse than its predecessor. And in a time where it’s harder than to try and cultivate one hit show, much less 11 of them, her less-is-more approach to new series orders should yield long-term benefits for the network.
Disney upstages itself
Disney managed to upstage its own upfront press conference Tuesday morning by announcing it was assuming full operational control over Hulu from Comcast, and could buy the streaming service outright by 2024. The TV reporters in attendance scrambled to write up the news, largely ignoring ESPN’s evp of Connor Schell, as he began sharing his network’s upfront messaging.
Given how vital the day was to spotlighting the future of Disney’s expanded TV portfolio, the timing couldn’t have been worse, as the Hulu news pulled focus from the company’s upfront pitch. So instead of delving into Disney’s new networks as should have been the case, buyers and reporters alike were instead preoccupied with how Hulu will be shoehorned into the company’s strategy.
Tiffany Haddish heads to broadcast
Landing a big movie star on broadcast TV is still a big coup, which is why NBC made waves on Sunday when it said that Melissa McCarthy would become its new Little Big Shots host. But ABC’s surprise news that it had signed Tiffany Haddish to host and executive produce a revival of Kids Say the Darndest Things is even more of a shocker, given Haddish’s rising star status and robust film schedule.
Burke said that Haddish had topped the list of dream talent she’d hope to lure to ABC, and the new chief pulled off the feat in less than six months on the job. While Haddish wasn’t at the event, she charmed buyers in a video segment about her new gig: “That’s right, I said ‘Darndest.’ I’m a white man from the ‘50s now!”
In an upfront week largely devoid of big names (Rob Lowe’s 9-1-1 spinoff for Fox is a rare exception), the Haddish news was huge.
Think before you (joke about a) tweet
Another upfront, another controversial tweet from an ABC star. Last year, Disney-ABC executives joked onstage, multiple times, about Roseanne Barr’s Twitter feed, ironically firing her and pulling the plug on her show two weeks later for that very same reason. This year, it was Constance Wu’s turn in the social media spotlight, as Karey Burke and Jimmy Kimmel joked about her controversial tweetstorm on Friday in response to the news that Fresh Off the Boat had been renewed, to her dismay. (“Only on ABC is getting your show picked up the worst thing that can happen to you,” said Kimmel.)