Before it even premiered, How to Get Away With Murder, ABC's new show starring Viola Davis as a renegade law professor, was dubbed "as close to a guaranteed hit as any show is at the beginning of its season." And last night's pilot didn't disappoint. The first episode was seen by an estimated 14 million viewers — a whopping 10 million more than tuned in to NBC's Parenthood, which premiered in the same time slot. In the 18-49 demographic — which is the one advertisers really care about — the show, created by Peter Nowalk and executive produced by Grey's Anatomy/Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes, earned an unbelievable 3.8 rating.
How to Get Aways with Murder's success comes one night after the premiere of Black-ish, another new ABC series led by people of color, outperformed expectations. As my colleague Kelsey McKinney noted, Black-ish's 10.78 million viewership was only slightly down from its lead-in, Modern Family, at 10.93 million. "That's the best premiere night for any show gifted with the post-Modern Family slot in four years," writes McKinney.
At a July press conference, Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment Group, said that diversity is a "mission statement" of the network. "We think that's our job, and in a way that's not so much diversity as authenticity if you're reflecting America."
It's too early to predict whether Black-ish and How to Get Away With Murder have the staying power to draw audiences back on a weekly basis. But for now, it's worth noting that prioritizing diversity in entertainment seems to have paid off for ABC.