ABC Plans Digital Slate For 2016

By Evan DeSimone

ABC is joining the wave of major networks creating programming specifically targeted to digital platforms, and it’s tapped comedian Iliza Shlesinger for the task.

Shlesinger will headline a short-form scripted comedy that will be available exclusively on the WatchABC App, according to a report by Variety. The show, which doesn’t yet have a title, will be the first ina new slate of digital series created by ABC to expand its digital offerings, drawing more consumers to the WatchABC app, which the network hopes to turn into a destination that can compete with digital programmers like Netflix.

ABC’s new digital slate is expected to serve as a farm team for its linear platforms, enabling it to explore new concepts and develop emerging talent that might one day graduate to the its prime time network lineup. It’s an approach that is currently being explored by a number of networks, including ABC’s historical rivals NBC and CBS.

CBS recently launched CBS All Access, a standalone streaming service that mirrors network’s current line up and offers selections from the CBS catalog. Original programming is already in the works, most notably a new “Star Trek” series set to live exclusively on CBS All Access starting in 2017. NBC has also gone the standalone route with SeeSo, a streaming service that will spin off the network’s popular comedy brand and add a slate of new shows from rising comics and established talents.

It’s not yet clear if the new digital slate will be available only to pay-tv subscribers or if the series will be widely available to all digital consumers. The WatchABC app is currently widely available but that may change. ABC parent company Disney has expressed an interest in spinning off some of its popular brands such as ESPN, Marvel and Star Wars into standalone OTT products. ABC could be set for a similar transition with a new slate of original content leading the way.