Once Upon a Time underwent a massive shift this season, moving to Friday nights and flipping the script by introducing a fairly substantial reboot. Fortunately, it looks as though this gamble might have actually paid off.
While speaking to TV critics at the TCA winter press tour this week, ABC boss Channing Dungey said that network hadn't yet counted out a new season of Once Upon a Time, despite its struggling ratings on Friday nights.
"I would say I'm cautiously optimistic," Dungey said of OUAT and its other Friday night program, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. "It's always hard at this point in January to know because some of it is also dependent on your new development and how you feel about those things, so that's why it's really hard at the top of the year to know exactly what's going to happen."
This season, since moving from Fridays to Sundays, Once has been averaging just 3.7 million live viewers, and a 1.1 rating in the 18-49 demo. These numbers aren't lost on ABC, but Dungey says that they aren't painting the entire picture.
"The thing about Once Upon a Time is that the ratings have been a little lower on Friday than they were on Sunday," Dungey admitted. "But our delayed viewing, which we were averaging a bump of about 55 percent, this year has been into triple digits, so the actual fanbase hasn't shifted very much. It's more that they've been watching it more time-shifted since we've been on Friday."
So, with the DVR and on-demand viewings, Once Upon a Time isn't actually performing as poorly as the initial ratings might suggest. This is good news for the series' future.
As far as the potential story for a new season goes, ABC hasn't yet heard what the creators could be planning for the future.
"Eddy [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] are going to be coming in shortly to talk with us about what they would be doing if they had another season," Dungey revealed. "I can't really say until we've had that conversation."
Once Upon a Time returns on Friday, March 2 at 8pm ET on ABC.