Formalizing a decision that had been expected for some time, ABC announced today that it has ordered a second season of its recently concluded smash-hit Dancing with the Stars reality ballroom competition series.

As had been speculated due to its lack of an earlier announcement, rather than attempt to squeeze another Dancing with the Stars edition into its late summer/early fall schedule, ABC confirmed that Dancing's second season will air as part of its 2005-2006 midseason schedule -- no doubt hoping that the series will have a ratings growth path similar to that of Fox's American Idol, another one-time summer reality phenomenon to which Dancing has been frequently compared. According to a Daily Variety report, an early winter premiere is most likely.

ABC is understandably excited about the success of its summer reality programming. "The show is tremendous fun, perfect for our brand and a wonderful boost for our schedule," ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson stated in his announcement of the second season order. "Having Dancing and Brat Camp both emerge this summer as assets for the future gives us great upside."

Andrea Wong -- the ABC alternative programming executive who championed Dancing with the Stars' concept despite acknowledging that the idea of a ballroom competition show may have sounded "like the craziest show anyone has ever heard of" -- is also obviously pleased to have seen her gamble pay off. "I love everything about this show," said Wong. "It was an odd left turn, so it's especially gratifying to see it embraced by so many people."

According to Variety, with the show having been such a success in its first season, other than extending the show's run beyond six episodes, no major changes are expected for Dancing's second season. One aspect that might change a bit is the star power of the participating celebrities -- given the initial season's success, the show's BBC Worldwide production company anticipates being able to get some bigger names to compete in Dancing's second season. However the show's producers insist that they won't simply be looking to cast the biggest celebrities that they can. Instead, having already succeeded with smaller celebrities, the show's casting decisions will still be based on "the story they're going to bring to the show," BBC Worldwide vice president Paul Telegdy told Variety.

While ABC isn't revealing exactly when in mid-season Dancing with the Stars 2 will premiere, Variety speculates that a post-Monday Night Football January 2006 debut would be a strong asset in ABC's attempt to launch its new Monday night programming (after the upcoming Fall 2005 season, MNF will end its thirty-five year run on ABC.) However, since a January launch would also force the show to eventually end up airing against NBC's coverage of Winter Olympics (not to mention represent a change in ABC's previously announced new January 2006 Monday night lineup), the trade paper also notes that a March premiere might be another possibility (and one that would make more sense, with Dancing with the Stars 2 taking over the Monday 8-9PM ET/PT time period after The Bachelor 8, scheduled to debut in January 2006, ends its run.)

Dancing with the Stars averaged 16.8 million viewers during its six-week run, making it the most watched show of the summer by far. In addition to averaging 22.4 million viewers and 6.7/19 rating/share, its July 6 finale also drew the most viewers and highest Adults 18-49 demographic numbers of any summer television series since Fox's September 2002 finale of American Idol's first season. Idol's original edition averaged 12.5 million Tuesday performance show viewers and 13.5 Wednesday results show viewers during its three-month run in Summer 2002.

While ABC's Dancing with the Stars finale fell just short of the 22.8 million viewers that Fox's original Idol finale averaged, its Adults 18-49 performance wasn't nearly as impressive as the 10.7/30 rating/share drawn by the Fox show's finale. However, the six-episode Dancing with the Stars did best Fox's much-longer inaugural American Idol season in one area -- average viewership. Idol's original edition averaged 12.5 million Tuesday performance show viewers and 13.5 Wednesday results show viewers during its three-month run in Summer 2002.