As The Rookie: Feds Debuts & The Good Doctor Eyes Legal Spinoff, ABCs Simran Sethi Talks Franchise Strategy

Drama procedural franchises have proven resilient amid declining linear ratings, with CBS’ FBI series and NBC’s Chicago and Law & Order dramas topping Live+Same Day ratings during premiere week.

ABC has had a lot of success with flagship drama Grey’s Anatomy and its spinoff Station 19, which have built an integrated universe with characters, most notably Jason George, permanently moving from the mothership to the offshoot. Last season, the network took a more traditional, “franchise” approach with one of its top procedurals, cop drama The Rookie, introducing a potential spinoff set in a different world, the FBI, as a backdoor pilot. The project, The Rookie: Feds, starring Niecy Nash, went to series, which just made its debut.

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Now ABC is looking to the same with another hit procedural, medical drama The Good Doctor, which is getting a planted spinoff, The Good Lawyer, airing as an episode later this season. In both cases, the creator/developer of the original series, Alexi Hawley (The Rookie) and David Shore (The Good Doctor), co-created the spinoff.

“With The Rookie, I think it was about franchising this incredible property that audiences have grown to love,” Simran Sethi, ABC Entertainment’s EVP Programming and Content Strategy, said of the Nathan Fillion-starring show. “Those ratings soared 475% over multi platform 35 last season; really, really strong core audience. And I think it’s because of the aspirational tone, it strikes a balance between action and fun, but it’s also really smart, adaptive storytelling. It’s a show that’s in its fifth season, and Alexi Hawley and his team still come up with interesting character permutations and interesting cases that have twists and turns.”

The Rookie just picked up where it had left off in terms of strong ratings performance, with its Season 5 premiere jumping more than 4.5x over its initial Live+Same Day Adult 18-49 rating in Live+7 multi-platform numbers for a delayed-viewing lift of +361% (1.43 rating vs. 0.31 rating), adding almost 5 million viewers to rise to 8.2 million total viewers.

“Spinning that off and having Rookie: Feds was about talent, with those creators and their ability to tell these kinds of stories, which are wildly entertaining and still talk about issues, and give them a new platform,” Sethi said. “I think the theme of The Rookie, the theme of reinvention that’s core to the franchise, it’s about the stage of life you’re in and the box you put yourself in or the world puts you in, and how to break out of it. So franchising that show for us was about the popularity of The Rookie, but also because those themes seem so relevant and it felt like it was fertile ground for a new story to tell, which we are very excited with that we see in that show.”

Sethi would not discuss The Good Lawyer, a legal offshoot of the The Good Doctor which, like The Rookie/The Rookie: Feds, will switch from a male to a female lead, but ABC brass are said to be high on the idea.

The Good Doctor, headlined by Freddie Highmore, just kicked off its sixth season. Will it keep going next season, potentially running alongside its offshoot the way the two Rookie series are this season?

“That’s not a decision we’ve come to yet,” Sethi said. “The reason we’re in discussions of spinoffs of particular shows is really rooted in how talented the creative teams are behind it. David Shore is really really talented, and The Good Doctor is a really, really good show. So I think it’s definitely part of our strategy, creating these worlds that can move in-between shows, but it really comes down to the quality of execution of the particular shows and the writing team, if they have another in them.”

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