With one eye on its marketing blitz for the ninth annual “25 Days of Christmas” stunt, ABC Family is keeping another trained on the new year's horizon.
Following its seasonal buffet of holiday classics, original telefilms and theatrical premieres (see story, page 28), the network will unveil a new season of Wildfire and the debut of a cop show with a neighborhood twist, both of which will benefit from extensive on-air promotion during the “25 Days” stunt.
“It's a time of year for us to promote what will be coming for the following year on the network,” said ABC Family president Paul Lee, noting that during the holidays families gather together around the television in higher numbers. The 2005 version of the “25 Days” stunt averaged a best-ever 2.3 million primetime viewers.
Coming out of the gate on Jan. 1 is the third season of original series Wildfire, which tracks the struggles of a young woman trying to turn her life around on a horse ranch. Testament to the network's confidence in the show's legs — it's the second highest-rated property, averaging 1.7 million total viewers, 293,000 18-to-34 watchers and 603,000 18-to-49 viewers for premiere episodes over its first two seasons — is an order for a 13-episode fourth season, scheduled for next fall.
Another original series, Lincoln Heights, will make its debut a week later, at 7 p.m. The show is about a cop who returns with his suburban family to the crime-ridden neighborhood where he grew up and embarks on a crusade to make it livable.
“We really found our rhythm with dramas, somewhere with audiences between 16 to 24,” said Lee, pointing toward other projects he believes will score with that demographic group.
The network is now in production on two pilots: Greek, a show about college fraternities and sororities, and Nobody, a fantasy series about a woman who accepts anonymity in order to save the life of her daughter. “We're casting now and then we look at them in the new year,” he said.
Come summer, ABC Family will schedule the second season of its most popular original series to date, Kyle XY, which follows a mysterious teenage savant who is devoid of such human instinctive behavior as anger, joy and love, and the family who found him.
“Kyle is our highest-rated, and No. 1 show in cable last year in female teens,” said Lee. “It has such a passionate audience.”
Kyle XY averaged 2.2 million viewers over 10 premieres last summer, including 336,000 adults 18 to 34 watchers and 801,000 adults 18 to 49.
Also on Lee's watch for summer 2007 is new programming involving the fantasy original movie Fallen, which debuted last July.
“What we know is that it just seemed perfect last summer, and it just hit the nerve,” said Lee. “It probably had the highest male ratings that we've had in two or three years. We have six hours slated for next summer.”
Plans call for the content to take shape in the form of another two-hour original telefilm, with the remaining four hours either being developed as two more movies or in episodic form. Fallen is based on a series of books by Tom Sniegoski about an orphaned teenager who discovers that he's half-man, half-angel and is pursued by evil forces that want to kill him.
One ABC Family original series that didn't ascend was Beautiful People, cancelled after two seasons. “It did well,” said Lee, “but we've raised the bar to a point now. Once Kyle had come through and Wildfire had risen to that level, well it just wasn't up there.”
But fans can catch Beautiful People star Daphne Zuniga on Dec. 16 opposite Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire) in the original movie Christmas Do-Over.