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ABC chief addresses Scandal-free fall lineup and the future of OUAT

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Olivia Pope, you and your gladiators were missed — especially by Channing Dungey.

In her first interview with EW, Dungey — who last February became the first African-American to ever lead the entertainment division of a major broadcast network — talks about launching the 2016-17 season without Scandal on Thursdays, as well as the future of Once Upon a Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and whether we’ll ever see Star Wars: The Primetime Show.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where you nervous about postponing the return of Scandal this season?
CHANNING DUNGEY: 
Certainly. Scandal is a big hit show for us and nobody likes to go into their first fall season as president of entertainment without one of the biggest guns in their arsenal. But, obviously we were thrilled for Kerry and her family and that’s all good news.

In the future, can you see yourself repeating the fall and not having TGIT on the lineup?
It’s too early to tell at this point. I haven’t even had the opportunity yet to read the pilot scripts that are in development, so for me to posit what next fall’s going to look like is a little too early.

What do you think is going down with How to Get Away With Murder? This season was creatively so strong and yet the ratings continued to falter. Do you blame that on its Notorious lead-in?
I think the lead-in certainly bears some responsibility. Notorious did not perform as strongly as we would have hoped and we know especially when you’re looking at that live-same-day ratings, that’s always part of the challenge. But if you look at How to Get Away With Murder over the seven-day period, we generally go up in triple-digit percentages, an average of 115 to 117 percent for the show. So that signals that people are still as engaged with it as before. I do think that the lack of TGIT pull-through did affect the number a little bit.

Have you asked Shonda Rhimes for another show?
I will take as much from Shonda as she is willing to give, believe you me.

 A few Marvel questions. How do you move these shows forward when Netflix has gained so much ground with Jessica Jones? How do you feel about the state of Marvel on ABC?
Look, we are incredibly encouraged. Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been creatively the strongest season we’ve had yet. The episodes just keep getting better and stronger. And that’s another one for us that we moved from 9 to 10 and yet even though the HUD levels are softer at 10, the live-same-day has remained the same and that’s another one of our shows which regularly goes up triple digits over the seven-day period, anywhere from 100 to 110 percent.

So you see a future for S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Absolutely. I’m very bullish on S.H.I.E.L.D. and we’re also really excited about our production with Marvel, ABC Studios, and IMAX, which we are working on for next fall as well.

Is John Ridley’s mysterious superhero project still in the works?
Which John Ridley project?

It was the Marvel project. I can’t even tell you what it’s about because no one would tell us.
(Laughs) Yeah, so John is working on a rewrite of that script for Marvel at the moment. We have not seen a new version of it. He’s been on production of his show, over in London, and on season 3 of American Crime, so those are the things that have been top of mind for him of late. But I have heard from Marvel that he is working on a revision to that script.

You had previously teased a Star Wars project. Is that in development yet?
That was sort of a conversation at TCA that got blown way out of proportion. We have had some conversations in general about wanting to find a way to bring something from the Lucas Star Wars Universe to ABC, but that’s far into the future. The focus at the moment for Lucas is on the current stuff that they’re doing on the film side and then, of course, they do have the stuff that they are doing on XD.

Here’s a Once Upon a Time question. Do you see this being the final season? And if so, can you give them an end date to work with like, say, Lost had?
Yeah, so [executive producers] Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, as veterans of Lost, are fully conscious of all these things. They came in and sat with us recently to talk about what their ideas would be for a season 7 and we’re in conversations about that right now. But I think this is absolutely a show that is beloved to us and if and when we decide to end it, we want to do it the right way and really give the fans the ending that they deserve. But I will say that Eddy and Adam have some really good ideas for future seasons.

Shark Tank has been such a great performer, but its ratings have weakened a bit. Is there something else that you can do to turn it around? I mean, is six sharks too much?
I don’t know that six sharks is too much and I think right now as we move into midseason, we’re  going to be counting down to the $100 million mark in terms of the money that the sharks have given away and that’s really exciting. We’re working on building toward that as a very big episode for us. There’s a lot of Shark Tank in the universe right now because it’s airing on our network and we now have the older episodes airing on CNBC. When there’s a lot of one particular product in the marketplace, things soften a little bit.

I know the Modern Family cast deals are up this year, are you feeling good about that? Are you feeling that it will be fine and no problems?
I think everything is always a challenge, a conversation in a negotiation, but I feel very bullish. I know that we would love to have the show back on the air for as long as we can have it.

Did canceling your sister’s show, Conviction, affect your holidays? (Dungey’s sister is actress Merrin Dungey, who played Maxine Bohen in the freshman drama.)
(Laughs) Well, we haven’t canceled Conviction. We’re actually moving it to Sundays as we move into January. We did only make the 13 episodes, but I will say she just came back after wrapping those 13 episodes and [was] excited to be home with the with the family, so we’ll just leave it at that.

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