'Dancing With The Stars' is waltzing over to Disney+
After 17 years, the popular dance competition will be the first ABC prime-time series to air exclusively on the Disney+ streaming service.
Who's next? After ABC's Dancing With The Stars moves from free over-the-air broadcasts on the ABC Network to the Disney+ steaming service launched in 2019 by its parent company, TV viewers will be asking themselves which other popular series will be going behind a streaming service pay wall.
In another seismic shift in the TV landscape, DWTS becomes the first live series to debut on Disney+ this fall in the U.S. and Canada. Major League Baseball this season has cut deals for Friday night doubleheaders games to Apple TV+ (including the Reds-Dodgers game at 10 p.m. this Friday), and soon will give Sunday, Monday and Wednesday exclusive games to NBC's Peacock streaming service. And Al Michaels will call 15 Thursday Night Football NFL games on Amazon Prime video this fall.
DWTS, which premiered in June 2005, was heralded by ABC as "the No. 1 entertainment series in its two-hour time slot among adults 18-49" before its 30th season premiere last September. ABC also said the series was also among the "Top 5 most-watched unscripted series with Total Viewers," which skews older than the age 18-49 demographic, for the 2020-21 TV season.
The 30th season ended on Monday, Nov. 22, last year with Iman Shumpert and Daniella Karagach winning the Mirrorball trophy.
It's clear that Disney's strategy is to move some of the DWTS older viewers to the streaming service popular for its family Disney programming, Pixar movies and programming from the Star Wars and Marvel Universe franchises.
"The show's broad appeal, as well as the overwhelming popularity of its Disney-themed competition nights, make Disney+ the perfect home for Dancing With The Stars while continuing to expand our demographic reach," said Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, in a statement reported by People magazine.
Dana Walden, Walt Disney Television chairman of entertainment, said that "this is a great opportunity to introduce this show to a whole new generation of fans on Disney+."
Or introduce an older generation of DWTS fans to Disney+?
Deadline notes that Disney's streaming service "has found it challenging to launch a big hit series beyond the Marvel and Lucasfilm franchises" in its first two and a half years.
The dance completion, which has aired 8-10 p.m. Mondays for 16 years, will be replaced by two ESPN Monday Night Football games this fall and other unspecified programs. Walden says that ABC executives "are significantly expanding our unscripted slate at ABC." The network also could put The Bachelortte in that time slot.
Moving the dancing show, which has won 18 prime-time Emmys, may not sit well with ABC affiliates, Deadline hints.
"While DWTS hasn’t been a moneymaker for years, it was a big reason for viewers to stay tuned to a broadcast network. Finding a big-tent reality show like DWTS, Survivor and The Voice has long been the holy grail to broadcasters, so as DWTS is expected to boost Disney+, its departure will have an impact on ABC and its affiliates," Deadline says.
"Station owners will likely make their feelings known about the loss of the venerable performer during the ABC Affiliate Meeting in New York City on May 18," a day after the network announces its 2022 fall schedule, Deadline notes.
DWTS will be the most established show to move to a steaming service, and other media conglomerates certainly will be watching closely. In the past, networks have shifted moderately successful shows with a loyal core audience to their streaming services, such as AP Bio to NBC's Peacock or SEAL Team and Evil to CBS' Paramount+.
Based on the British show Strictly Come Dancing, the ABC version premiered in summer 2005, and aired a second season in January 2006, then moved to the fall TV lineup. For 13 years ABC aired two DWTS seasons each year. It cut down to once a year in fall 2019, and a year later replaced longtime hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews with Tyra Banks.