ABC Signature is an American television production studio under the Disney Television Studios unit of Walt Disney Television that was named in 2020 (both ultimately owned by The Walt Disney Company). The studio is the production arm of the ABC television network, and was the first incarnation of Touchstone Television, established in 1985 and renamed ABC Studios in 2007. It adopted its current identity on August 10, 2020, following a merger between ABC Studios and the original ABC Signature Studios.
|Formerly||Touchstone Television (1985–2007)|
ABC Studios (2007–2020)
|Founded||March 21, 1985|
|Parent||Disney Television Studios|
(Walt Disney Television)
The Touchstone Films banner was used for TV by then-new Disney CEO Michael Eisner in the 1984–1985 television season, with the short lived western Wildside. Touchstone was a banner of Walt Disney Studios that included television production at the time. In the next season, Disney's TV production unit produced a hit in The Golden Girls using the Touchstone Films brand.
On April 18, 1989, Walt Disney Television and Touchstone Television were grouped together under Garth Ancier, the then-president of network television for Walt Disney Studios. With difficulties of selling in the off-network syndicated market, Disney television executives decided in late September 1990 that Hull High, then on NBC, or a potential NBC mid-season replacement in Disney Action-Adventure Hour, would be its last hour-long drama. High's pilot did cost the company $4.5 million. In 1992, Touchstone TV moved into producing longer forms for TV, focusing on more adult-oriented fare with its first telefilm for CBS about Edna Buchanan, a Miami Herald crime reporter who would win a Pulitzer Prize.
On August 24, 1994, with Jeffrey Katzenberg's resignation, Richard Frank became head of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications, a new group taking Touchstone Television and other TV units out of the Disney studios.
In April 1996, due to the ongoing post-Disney-CC/ABC merger realignment and the retirement of its president, Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications' divisions were reassigned to other groups, with Touchstone Television transferred to The Walt Disney Studios. On November 1, 1997, David Neuman assumed the presidency of Touchstone TV while retaining his post as president of Walt Disney Network Television. In March 1998, Touchstone TV was placed under Buena Vista Television Productions, a newly formed group under chairman Lloyd Braun, along with Walt Disney Network Television. By June 1999, Neuman left for the Digital Entertainment Network.
In 2000, Touchstone Television created two departments for comedy in September, and a department for drama in December. While two of their pilots were in consideration to be picked up by ABC in April 2003, Tollin/Robbins Productions signed a two-year development deal with Touchstone Television, which included a two-year option, shares in profits and outside sales.
ABC Television StudiosEdit
In June 2009, ABC Entertainment announced a new organization, effective immediately as ABC Entertainment Group, while consolidating back office functions like business affairs, distribution and scheduling of ABC Studios and ABC Entertainment and retaining separate creative units. In January 2010, Disney-ABC Television Group announced it was cutting 5% of its workforce. In October 2012, ABC Studios formed its Signature unit to sell to outside networks.
In early 2016, ABC Studios International (also referred to as ABC International Studios) was set up with the appointment of Keli Lee as its managing director of international content and talent, combined with her move to London. The unit, announced at MIPCOM in October 2016, would allow more overseas local productions, leveraging fellow Disney Media Network expertises in distribution and production for the local and international co-productions, IP reinventions, and original format acquisitions and productions. This would add to Disney-ABC's international productions in Latin America, where the company has 16 years of producing local content. In April 2017, the international unit greenlit its first co-production, the Australian series Harrow. Lee signed a first look deal with Hoodlum Entertainment, the co-producers of Harrow, by February 2018. With ABC picking up the international unit's Reef Break in August 2018, ABC Studios started co-producing.
In August 2017, Ryan Seacrest Productions left CBS at the end of their deal to move over to ABC Studios. Following the expansion of its cable/streaming unit, ABC Studios launched a new alternative division for the full range of unscripted work, from documentaries to game shows to social experiment series. The former executive vice president of development and production at Ryan Seacrest Productions, along with Fernando Hernandez, the former head of Universal Television Alternative Studios, were hired by the studio to lead the division around January 2018. This division was announced in October 2018 with a small slate under production executive Gareth Provan, and an in-house development group called The Originals Group. The division is tapping existing production companies with deals at ABC Studios, including Ryan Seacrest Productions, Larry Wilmore's Wilmore Films and Bob Sertner Productions, in addition to partnerships that Hernandez has developed, including those with Mission Control Media, Parker Paige Media, INE Entertainment, and Party Pit Productions.
ABC Signature StudiosEdit
ABC Studios was moving to sell to outside networks. As the studios have placed the former ABC comedy Cougar Town at TBS, and Devious Maids at Lifetime, Signature was set up in October 2012 to continue the trend. In 2013, ABC Studios vice president of drama Tracy Underwood was appointed senior vice president of ABC Signature. Signature was incorporated on September 23, 2013.
Signature developed Mistresses, which was included in ABC's summer schedule and renewed for another season. In October 2013, the division placed its first outside project, Benched, for USA, with a pilot order that finished shooting by December. Other projects were in the works with A&E, WE tv and TBS. In the works with ABC, Signature has a possible straight-to-series Stephen King story adaptation called Grand Central, based on The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates. Corporate sibling Freeform picked up Rated P For Parenthood for development as its first program from Signature in June 2014.
In April 2015, Signature and ABC Studios signed a two-year first-look with Black Label Media, started by Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill three years prior as a finance and production company. McG's Wonderland Sound & Vision signed a two-year overall production agreement with Signature, Freeform and ABC Studios in October 2015. This follows two productions from McG on Freeform/ABC Family. Signature signed SMILF producer Frankie Shaw to a two-year overall deal in July 2018. In March 2019, the deal was suspended.
In April 2016, Freeform greenlit Cloak & Dagger with a straight-to-series order, as Marvel Television's first co-production with Signature. Another co-production with Marvel Television was greenlit in August 2016, with Runaways confirmed for the Hulu streaming service. Signature also put a live action Mighty Ducks series in development in January 2018 that is likely to end up as a series on Disney+.
Signature is teaming with John Grisham, Hulu and Michael Seitzman's Maniac Productions to create a Grisham Universe set of series. The franchise would begin with two series, The Rainmaker and Rogue Lawyer, based on Grisham's books, with a potential to grow to additional series. Hulu had dropped out of the Grisham Universe by September 5, 2019, with the pair being shopped given other interested outlets.
From its pilot, Signature's The Wilds, a young adult drama, was pick up in May 2019 by Amazon, its first from the company. Underwood was promoted in February 2020 to the new position of executive vice president, creative affairs of ABC Studios to oversee development at ABC Studio in addition to managing ABC Signature.
Under Disney Television StudiosEdit
With the acquisition of 21st Century Fox closing on March 20, 2019, ABC Studios and ABC Signature Studios became a subsidiary of Disney Television Studios. In July 2019, Disney TV Studios announced a reorganization in executive leadership. Fox TV executives Jonnie Davis and Josh Sussman have replaced Patrick Moran and Howard Davine as president and executive vice president of business affairs of ABC Studios respectively. It was also announced that Amy Hartwick, the studio's head of the comedy department, has exited. In September 2019, ABC Studios' alternative division head Hernandez exited the post, with ABC indicating that they would remain in the businesses.
ABC Studios International head Lucy Liu produces the anthology series Unsung Heroes which was in development. while launching ABC Discover to find more British talent. In December 2019, an exodus of the international unit's top executives including managing director Keli Lee occurred. However, no replacements have been named given a re-assessing of the unit is taking place.
On August 10, 2020, ABC Studios and ABC Signature were merged into one unit as part of a restructuring plan by Disney regarding their television production units; the merged company took on the latter's name. Meanwhile, Fox 21 Television Studios was renamed Touchstone Television, restoring that brand name after a thirteen-year dormancy, and 20th Century Fox Television was renamed 20th Television (the former name of that entity's domestic syndication division, which was folded into Disney-ABC Domestic Television).
List of productionsEdit
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- Haitman, Diane (March 30, 1989). "Disney TV Chief Heads Back to Mainstream". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
- "Hours Dramas: Down But Not Out?" (PDF). Broadcasting. p. 38. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
- "Disney's Touchstone Unit to Produce Films for TV". Los Angeles Times. December 22, 1992. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
- Weinraub, Bernard (August 25, 1994). "Chairman of Disney Studios Resigns". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
- "Roth, Iger Assume Expanded Responsibilities at the Walt Disney Company". PR Newswire. April 16, 1996. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
- "People in new jobs". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications. November 1, 1997. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
- Hofmeister, Sallie (March 3, 1998). "Disney Taps Lloyd Braun to Head Up Network TV". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
- Richtel, Matt (June 24, 1999). "Youthful Web Network Has a Modest Goal: Replacing TV". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
- Schneider, Michael (December 14, 2000). "Touchstone takes dramatic step". Variety. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
- James, Meg (April 18, 2003). "Disney Lures 'Smallville' Team to Touchstone". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
- Fixmer, Andy (April 25, 2007). "Disney to Drop Buena Vista Brand Name, People Say (Update1)". Bloomberg News. Bloomberg. Archived from the original on September 18, 2011. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
- "ABC Entertainment Group Announces Reorganization". Animation World News. June 18, 2009.
- "ABC Unveils Reorganized Operations". Zap2It.com. June 19, 2009. Archived from the original on June 21, 2009.
- James, Meg (January 30, 2009). "Disney's ABC Television Group to Cut 5% of Workforce". Los Angeles Times.
- Goldberg, Lesley (December 11, 2013). "ABC Preps Stephen King Series as Boutique Division Ramps Up". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 28, 2014.
- Hopewell, John (October 17, 2016). "Disney's ABC Studios International Eyes Production Around the Globe". Variety. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- Holloway, Daniel (April 10, 2017). "ABC Greenlights Australian Co-Production 'Harrow'". Variety. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Clarke, Stewart (February 23, 2018). "Ioan Gruffudd on Maturing Into Crime Series 'Harrow' and Directing Ambitions". Variety. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Andreeva, Nellie (August 23, 2018). "ABC Picks Up Crime Drama Series 'Reef Break' Starring Poppy Montgomery From ABC Studios International For Summer". Deadline. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Littleton, Cynthia (August 10, 2017). "Ryan Seacrest Productions Sets Scripted Development Deal With ABC Studios". Variety. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
- Andreeva, Nellie (October 2, 2018). "ABC Studios Ramps Up Alternative Division, Sets Cooking Pilot At ABC & Series 'Ink & Paint' At Disney OTT Service". Deadline. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
- Andreeva, Nellie (February 12, 2020). "Tracy Underwood Promoted To EVP Creative Affairs At ABC Studios". Deadline. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- "ABC Signature Studios, Inc". Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- Andreeva, Nellie (June 3, 2014). "ABC Family Buys Musical Parenting Comedy From Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos & Jamie Denbo". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
- Andreeva, Nellie (April 12, 2016). "Black Label Media Inks First-Look TV Deal With ABC Signature & ABC Studios". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
- Andreeva, Nellie (October 29, 2015). "McG Inks Overall Deal With ABC Family, ABC Studios & ABC Signature". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
- Holloway, Daniel (July 11, 2018). "Frankie Shaw Agrees to ABC Signature Deal". Variety. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
- Masters, Kim; Elise Sandberg, Bryn (March 8, 2019). "'SMILF' Canceled at Showtime Amid Probe Into Creator Frankie Shaw's Alleged Misconduct". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
- Wagmeister, Elizabeth (April 7, 2016). "Freeform Greenlights Marvel Romance Superhero Series 'Cloak and Dagger' (Exclusive)". Variety. Archived from the original on April 7, 2016. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
- Andreeva, Nellie (August 17, 2016). "Hulu Orders 'Marvel's Runaways' Series From Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 18, 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
- Goldberg, Lesley (February 21, 2018). "Disney Planning Another 'Muppets' Reboot for Its Streaming Service". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
- Goldberg, Lesley (December 4, 2018). "'The Grisham Universe': Hulu Sets Innovative Two-Show Franchise". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- Andreeva, Nellie (September 5, 2019). "John Grisham Universe Multi-Series Project Not Moving Forward At Hulu, Being Shopped". Deadline. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
- Andreeva, Nellie (May 28, 2019). "Amazon Studios Orders YA Series 'The Wilds'". Deadline. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
- Low, Elaine (March 5, 2019). "Disney Taps Warner Bros. Vet Craig Hunegs to Lead Merged TV Studios Unit". Variety. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
- Andreeva, Nellie (July 10, 2019). "Patrick Moran Out In Disney TV Studios Shakeup, Jonnie Davis Named ABC Studios President, Carolyn Cassidy Elevated At 20th TV, Josh Sussman Replaces Howard Davine". Deadline. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
- Andreeva, Nellie (July 10, 2019). "Amy Hartwick Exits As ABC Studios Head Of Comedy". Deadline. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
- Andreeva, Nellie (September 21, 2019). "ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits". Deadline. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
- Clarke, Stewart (December 6, 2019). "Keli Lee Exits ABC Studios International as Disney Considers Division's Fate". Variety. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
- Nellie Andreeva (August 10, 2020). "Disney Television Studios Rebrands Its Three Units As 20th Television, ABC Signature & Touchstone Television". Deadline Hollywood.