BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — At first glance, it may not seem like there are lots of new TV shows this fall.
But that's only because several broadcast networks are spacing out the premieres rather than dumping all the new shows onto the prime-time schedule during two weeks in September.
Of the 28 new fall shows, six won't debut until after Oct. 1. ABC won't premiere two of its new comedies, including "Last Man Standing" with Tim Allen ("Home Improvement"), until mid-October. Its fantasy-drama "Once Upon a Time" doesn't bow until late October. And Fox's "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" won't be on the air until late November.
"When you've got a whole lot of good shows, why would you concentrate them in a week against competition of 30 or 40 shows and all the marketing that goes with it and see which ones are standing three weeks later?" said ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee. "It's much better to give them their launch spots and put the marketing behind them and put the network behind them and give them a good chance."
Degrees of separation
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, who previously ran programming at Showtime, said he'd get rid of premiere week altogether if he could.
"For all of us to launch all of these shows in the same week is really foolhardy," he said. "I'd prefer not to have a fall launch at all, but I don't really have any say in that, so at the very least we're going to try to separate things a little bit. It's just the way it has to be done. All the networks have looked at it and done a little bit of separating because we're just killing all of our young in the same week."
NBC premiered two new comedies, "Up All Night" and "Free Agents," on Wednesday in advance of the official start of the 2011-12 TV season next week. The CW premiered most of its new shows last week.
CBS, the most-watched network, is sticking to a more traditional fall-rollout schedule.
"Don't forget, we have fewer shows to launch this fall: three dramas and two comedies," said CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler. "So for us, we're still going for the conventional big fanfare. Also, we've got the best platform to promote these shows on our own air."
Broadcast networks have long programmed year-round, but ABC has gotten more strategic, ordering several high-profile shows ("The River," "Scandal," "Missing," "G.C.B.") that will premiere between January and May in the back half of the 2011-12 TV season.
"The Oscars are a huge platform for one of our shows that comes later in the season," Lee said. "And January is a great platform, even though people are doing different things over Christmas, you can find them (to get promotions in front of them) whether it's in airports or elsewhere. So we wanted to make sure we spread it out and make sure we're not having (our new shows) fight it out in one week."