Move of longtime ABC competition show is due to the return of Monday Night Football
In an announcement that raised eyebrows, Disney announced Friday the move of Dancing With The Stars from broadcast network ABC to its streaming service, Disney Plus.
The move means the long-running series – airing on ABC since 2005, will now have season 31 and 32 exclusively on the streaming service in the United States (keep in mind reality shows use a different system regarding seasons as opposed to other programming as they can fit two in one calendar year or traditional television season.) ABC affiliates were notified of the move this morning.
Dancing is also moving to Disney Plus in Canada. For the last five years, the show aired on Rogers Communications-owned CityTV and its branded affiliates.
But in an angle many in the trades aren’t looking at, here’s the real reason Dancing is shifting to streaming:
“After over 30 seasons of the program on ABC, including two spin-offs, Dancing with the Stars will move off of ABC this fall in order for the Network to showcase several Monday Night Football games as well as develop and invest in new and future programming” said ABC in a statement.
A longtime staple on ABC during the NFL season, Monday Night Football shifted to sister ESPN in 2006 after 36 years to make room for Dancing, which at the time had two production cycles per year as it was drawing 20 million viewers or so a week. But given football’s surge in popularity in recent years as opposed to Dancing’s decline as the audience for the show grew older and older, simulcasting more games on ABC makes sense, given they broke the bank nabbing Fox Sports’ announcing A-team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to helm MNF and is getting flexed games soon. ABC is getting more games this year, including an exclusive contest as part of the new NFL deal, growing to three in fall 2023. ABC has simulcasted at least three MNF games with ESPN over the last two years.
In the past, Dancing airing over ABC 7 (WLS-TV) forced the local ABC-owned station to decline Bears MNF telecasts, pushing them to either WGN-TV or WCIU as the NFL states any cable exclusive game must be cleared on a local broadcast station. With Dancing moving to streaming, this will no longer be the case. So while it appears some ABC affiliates won’t be happy with the move, what they’re getting in exchange would draw more viewers and get higher ad rates, even with an ESPN simulcast. And keep in mind ABC still has reality competition shows who still draw viewers, including American Idol and The Bachelor/Bachelorette.
The move as you would have guessed, is a boon for Disney Plus, fitting well with the family-friendly streaming service who recently diversified its offerings past The Simpsons, Marvel, and Pixar by adding the former Netflix Marvel shows, leading Disney to update the streamer’s parent controls due to their consent scenes of sex and violence. Dancing can also add more Disney Nights to the competition, in the ultimate nod to corporate synergy.
On the other hand, moving to streaming may polarize the show’s older fanbase, who are less likely to stream programming than younger audiences. Also yet to be worked out is how the show’s live nature would work in streaming as continuing to air on Mondays would make the most sense, though no night has been announced. It also remains to be seen if ABC 7 will continue to report on Dancing during its newscasts like it did in the past, though watching today’s newscast at 4 p.m., ABC 7 made no mention of Dancing’s move to Disney Plus.
And then there’s the undermining of Hulu in all of this, as many are wondering if Disney’s sister streaming service can continue at this point.
As for Dancing, the show made changes the last few years in order to attract younger viewers, replacing Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews as hosts with Tyra Banks and renovating the ballroom, though the changes predictably alienated older viewers but still drew at least seven million viewers a week and significant ad revenue despite skewing older. Dancing didn’t shy away from controversial casting decisions, among them adding political figures Tom DeLay, Bristol Palin, and Sean Spicer to the show.
As far as this blog is concerned, Dancing earned a bit of infamous history in 2009 when the Chicago Tribune wasted an entire editorial section on the show when DeLay was an contestant. It was also the season when singer/dancer Mya Harrison lost to Donny Osmond in the finals as I wrote about the results here.
Postscript: I’ve met Mya after her concerts a few times and she was very gracious and kind to pose with the owner and proprietor of this site. To see pictures, click here to T Dog Media’s Instagram site.