ABC Moves 'Grey's' In Lineup Operation

Photographer: FRANK OCKENFELS Credit:
ABC/Frank Ockenfels
ABC is moving its hottest show, "Grey's Anatomy," to Thursdays in September as part of an aggressive schedule that will bring at least 15 new series to the air next season and leave no night unchanged since last fall.

Ted Danson, Taye Diggs, Calista Flockhart, Anne Heche, David Arquette and Rachel Griffiths are among the stars that will appear in new ABC series, the network announced Tuesday.

ABC also left the newsmagazine "Primetime" off its fall schedule for the first time since its introduction in 1989. But ABC News said "Primetime" will remain in production for specials, limited-run series and perhaps as a replacement for a failed entertainment program.

ABC is the only one of the major networks to increase its ratings over last year on the strength of hits "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost." But the rest of its schedule was weak, forcing the network to make an uncommonly large number of pilots.

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The risk in introducing so many new shows is that viewers will be overwhelmed and some series will get lost in the shuffle. But Steve McPherson, ABC entertainment president, said the network will strategically try to introduce the new series at different times.

"Yes, it's aggressive, absolutely," he said. "But it's all about how much you believe in your development."

ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Co., was the second major broadcast network to unveil its plans before advertisers, following NBC (part of NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.) on Monday. My Network TV, a new network created to fill the slot left by the soon-to-be-defunct UPN, also said Tuesday that it will begin Sept. 5 with a prime-time lineup of telenovelas remade for an English-speaking audience.

ABC's move of "Grey's Anatomy" from Sundays was done to help launch new series by pairing them with hits; the medical soap initially became a success because the "Desperate Housewives" audience stuck around to sample it. ABC has also done very poorly in the ratings on Thursdays, an important night for advertisers.

Switching "Grey's Anatomy" to 9 p.m. Thursdays sets up a battle with one of TV's most popular shows: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on CBS (a division of CBS Corp.) and NBC's most-touted new series, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

"There's a lot of history of big shows going up against one another and there's plenty of room for both," McPherson said.