ABC Family President Michael Riley Says Diversity Key to Millenial Audiences

At the ABC Family session at the Television Critics Association press tour this morning, I asked the network’s president Michael Riley about the fact that Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation had named ABC Family the leader in portrayals of gay characters, particularly in creating gay characters who weren’t just white men in urban areas. His answer suggested some forward-thinking about diversity — he was the first executive on press tour to talk about the changing demographics of the country, even glancingly:

For us everything we do at ABC family is grounded in storytelling and iconic characters. We never set out to portray anyone anyway. We build up those characters from a multi-dimensional standpoint. We couldn’t be more proud to receive that honor. For us, it’s very much about how we ground everything we do in great story-lines and characters. Millennials are a diverse ground of people. We want to make sure out storytelling really reflects that diversity, and that’s something we keep doing not only in that space but in other multi-dimensional spaces.

He hammered home the generational message over and over again. “Millenials are absolutely voracious around technology,” he noted, talking about the Twitter buzz around Pretty Little Liars. “We always capitalize on anything we can do..for us it’s about being part of that conversation.” And he said, in an assertion I’m intrigued by and would love to see more support for, “Millenials aren’t genre-specific. We aren’t genre-specific.” Now, of course, all of this makes sense for a network that’s specifically aimed at young people. But at some point, all the networks are going to have to make the shifts. ABC Family’s thinking about diversity is a valuable model.