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ABCd and The New Look of Broadcast TV

Fulfilling their promise, ABC has recently overhauled their mobile site and their overall streaming experience. Not only is there a brand-new template, but they've also brought back some old ABC
Studios productions and added on digital shorts, which they call ABCd. And ABC is far from the first broadcast network to take on this approach; rather, it is adopted from NBC, CBS, and to a lesser extent The CW. So let's take a further look into what these four networks are offering:


ABC


When you click on the 'Shows' menu on ABC's site, you'll see a list of a few shows that are offered on the website, such as Black-ish, Grey's Anatomy, and...Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters, neither of which have aired a single episodes in the past five years. However, they are both produced by ABC
Studios, meaning that the network has the stacking rights allowing them to release all episodes online. So if you were a big Ugly Betty fan or someone who has wanted to check it out but not have to pay for it on Hulu, your wish has come true. ABC has brought back old episodes of 38 series from the past 20 years, including some shows that were hits and some that were not--but mostly those that were not. Besides Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters, the only other shows ABC is offering that were on for a prolonged period of time were Ellen (no, not the syndicated talk show) and Felicity. They even brought on the show My Generation, which had just an 8 episode order--of which 2 actually aired (its second got a 1.1 A18-49 demo in 2010). It's safe to say that right now, ABC is testing out the waters in this aspect, usually offering little-remembered shows while mixing in a few that were moderately successful to draw eyeballs to the feature.

Another thing to note is that not all the throwback shows offered aired on ABC. For example, they have short-lived USA sitcom Benched, as well as FOX's ill-fated Red Band Society, both of which were produced by ABC Studios but did not air on ABC.

So, ABC is now letting us watch all these shows for free, but does that mean they're fooling around with bringing any of them back; particularly, the ones that were short-livd? I think it is highly possible if enough people stream the shows. I do think, and have for a while, that they should send a 2nd season of Red Band Society over to Freeform, perhaps with a post-Grey's Anatomy premiere on
ABC. It's a show that did well amongst people aged 12-17, and in the younger demographics in general. But for now, I look at it as a way for ABC to make a few bucks on some shows that probably lost money for them while on the air.

Back to ABCd. The network's website now offers seven short web series, from 'All My Gay Friends Are Getting Married' to 'I Can Find $3000 in Your Home'. There are four scripted web series, all of which have episodes that run for just a few minutes, and all that carry the "TV MA" tag--something that isn't allowed for a broadcast TV show. These shorts are available on a broadcast TV network's website, but would be deemed inappropriate to air on the actual network. Does this say anything about the future of broadcast TV? More and more talent is flocking over to cable due to having more creative freedom, but through ABCd we are finding out that those edgy cable series aren't too edgy for a broadcast network's website to carry. Could the future of broadcast TV allow for edgier series to be picked up by the networks and aired exclusively online? It would be a great way to get that talent back to the networks, and is appearing to be possible.

Discussion Question: Of the shows that ABC has online, which ones would you like to see revived from a ratings standpoint? (click here to see which shows there are).

The New ABC Website vs What The Others Offer
As touched on above, what ABC is doing right now by adding back old shows is by and large playing catch-up with NBC and CBS. NBC currently offers 23 old shows in full for free; from Do No Harm, which premiered at a 0.9 and set a (unfortunately short-lived) record for being the lowest-rated Big 4 premiere of all time, to real classics like Miami Vice and Battlestar Galactica. But like ABC, most of the shows they offer were low-rated and ill-fated, and none have been revived for new episodes in the year or so since they've been available. Could that change? Possibly.

The CW also has a feature where old shows can be streamed, though it's a little bit different. It's a free service called The CW Seed, and it features very few shows. Of note are short-lived DC-based Constantine, which struggled through NBC Fridays a couple seasons back, and Forever, which aired in ABC's Tuesday death slot, but the lack of ownership turned them away from a second season. Since The CW is a joint operation by CBS Studios and Warner Brothers, it makes sense that these
two Warner Brothers productions have landed on The CW's streaming experience rather than their original networks'. There have been rumors going on since the cancelation that have sparked up yet again lately that The CW is looking to pick up Constantine for a second season, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if it happened. In the case of Forever, like with a lot of the shows that ABC and NBC are offering as "classics", are probably just there to bring back some of the money they lost while on the air. But if somehow, someway, Forever does well on CW Seed? Who knows, maybe there will be a second season after all.

None of this rivals what CBS is doing at the moment though, with their CBS All Access subscription service being the only subscription service offered by a broadcast network. By paying $5.99 every month, All Access subscribers are treated with more available episodes of some current shows, as well as episodes from past CBS Studios productions, like The Brady Bunch, which originally aired on ABC. This all goes to show you that in the TV afterlife, owning a show has more leverage than once airing that same show. Yes, that is in green, because it's an important thing to remember. And also important to remember is that yes, broadcast television as we know it is changing. The overhauled ABC streaming experience is just one part of that.