Though Once Upon a Time and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been struggling in the ratings since their respective moves to Friday nights, the two dramas have potential to return next season.
“I would say I’m cautiously optimistic,” ABC boss Channing Dungey told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour Monday. “It’s always hard at this point in January to know because some of it is also dependent on your new development and how you feel about those things, so that’s why it’s really hard at the top of the year to know exactly what’s going to happen.”
In its rebooted seventh season, Once Upon a Time has been averaging 3.7 million total viewers and a 1.1 in the 18-49 demographic season to date. “The thing about Once Upon a Time is that the ratings have been a little bit lower on Friday than they were on Sunday, but our delayed viewing, which we were averaging a bump of about 55 percent, this year has been into triple digits, so the actual fanbase really hasn’t shifted very much,” Dungey says. “It’s more that they’ve been watching it more time-shifted since we’ve been on Friday.”
Dungey notes that a potential season 8 would also depend on the creative, which she has not yet heard. “Eddy [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] are going to be coming in shortly to talk with us about what they would want to be doing if they had another season, so I can’t really say until we’ve had that conversation,” Dungey said.
The same can be said for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is averaging 3.6 million viewers and 1.1 in the demo, but has found a creative resurgence with the show not only heading to space, but also into the not-so-distant future. “The creative this season, I honestly think, has been the strongest its ever been,” Dungey said. “We’ve been really excited about what the producers have been talking about for the second half of the season. I’m really looking forward to hearing them come in and talk about what their ideas would be for season 6, so we can make a better determination about whether we’re going to order another season or not.”
The future for Marvel’s Inhumans, however, is looking bleak. The series averaged 4.1 million total viewers and a 1.2 in the demo, and Dungey sounded less optimistic about the show’s return, though would not officially confirm its cancellation. “It didn’t perform for us at the level that we would’ve wanted,” she said. “We haven’t made any official decision yet about what we’re going to pick up in May, but I will say that the numbers, unfortunately, were less exciting for us than we hoped they would be.”
The performance of Inhumans, however, has not changed Dungey’s opinion about superhero shows on the network. “No, not at all,” Dungey says. “We’re actually developing a reboot of The Greatest American Hero that stars an Indian-American woman from [executive producer] Nahnatchka Khan. That is something that has definitely superhero aspects to it. The question really is more: What kind of superhero show? What’s the tone? How are we doing it? But I would never say we’re closing the door on superheroes.”
Inhumans‘ lackluster run also hasn’t affected ABC’s relationship with Marvel. “We continue to be very excited with what they’re doing with S.H.I.E.L.D.” she said. “We’ve tried a few things that haven’t worked out as well as we would’ve liked. We developed a couple things this season that we don’t think are going to end up going forward, so we’re going to look really carefully about what we do next, because the idea for us is to come up with something that works very well for both Marvel and ABC, so we’re going to continue to try there.”