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Shonda Rhimes Looks Beyond ABC's Nighttime Soaps

As ShondaLand Gets a Fifth Hour on ABC, Even Wider Possibilities Beckon

The supermarket is an adventure for Shonda Rhimes.  "I go to the grocery store, and at almost every point I find a group of 12- or 13-year-old girls staring at me," said the woman whose TV shows are the backbone of ABC's Thursday night lineup. The gawking might be expected of the 18-to-49 demographic hooked on "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal" and "How to Get Away With Murder." But the attention from this younger generation of fans points directly to how Ms. Rhimes and her production company, ShondaLand, are drawing in Netflix- and Hulu-weaned youngsters who were toddlers when "Grey's" hit primetime. These viewers, she said, are watching more than 200 older episodes to catch up on the storylines, and then tuning in to see new ones live on ABC.

About 200,000 viewers watched the pilot episode of "Grey's" on a range of platforms in recent months, according to the network, citing Nielsen estimates.

Astoundingly, 11-year-old "Grey's" is also on pace to end this season as ABC's No. 1 series. And it's not just ABC viewers, but also the network, thanking God it's Thursday. Ms. Rhimes has been described as "the Charles Dickens of the 21st century" by former ABC entertainment head Paul Lee, and at this year's National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas, Disney/ABC TV Group President Ben Sherwood put her value to ABC on par with Elvis Presley's importance to Sin City.

While the shows Ms. Rhimes produces, runs or created aren't immune to the downdraft of TV ratings, they are holding up better than most. ABC's all-Rhimes TGIT block remains among the few hours outside sports