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Could the cancellations of ABC 's "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" have been prevented?

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Could the cancellations of ABC 's "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" have been prevented?

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There were a number of articles late last week about how the actors who worked on "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" were blindsided by ABC's decision to cancel these long-running soaps. But when you really think about it, there were some pretty obvious signs over the past three years that The Walt Disney Company was losing its enthusiasm for daytime drama.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Perhaps the most obvious sign was Walt Disney Parks & Resorts' decision to pull the plug on Super Soap Weekend. Though these annual events - which were usually held in November at Disney's Hollywood Studios - drew tens of thousands of ABC soap fans to Central Florida, Disney discontinued SSW in September of 2008. Opting instead to launch an event that was known as the Soap Nation Tour, which (it was hoped) would be a more cost-effective way for ABC Daytime to give soap fans face time with their favorite performers.

This -- coupled with Disney Corporate's announcement in May of 2010 that it would soon be scrapping SOAPNet (so that this cable channel could then become the home of the Company's new preschool network, Disney Junior, in January of 2012) - were seen as pretty strong indications that the soap bubble was about to burst at the Mouse House.

But for every sign that seemed to indicate that ABC soaps were not long for this world (EX: Daytime's announcement last summer that it would begin airing reruns of selected episodes of "All My Children," "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital." Which would then allow the network to reduce by 20 the number of new episodes of each soap that ABC Daytime would produce annually), there were other things that longtime soap fans would then point to as possibly encouraging signs. Like ABC Daytime's decision to start shooting "AMC," "OLTL" & "GH" in high-definition.

Six-time Emmy-winner Erika Slezak from ABC's "One Life to Live" was recently  surprised
by the cast and crew with a celebration to mark her 40th anniversary playing Victoria Lord.
Ms. Slezak first appeared on "One Life to Live" on March 17, 1971.  Photo by Heidi
Gutman. Copyright American Broadcast Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

But wishful thinking aside, there was just no hiding the fact that - with each passing year -- the audience for ABC's soaps was shrinking and growing older. Which made these daytime dramas a far less attractive buy for advertisers.

Which is why - after a controversial move on Brian Frons' part (i.e. the president of Daytime for the Disney / ABC Television Group announced in August of 2009 that production of "AMC" would be moved from NYC to LA as part of a cost-cutting move) failed to yield the expected savings and/or ratings boost ... Very quietly in mid-2010, Frons ordered the development of 15 different shows that could then be used as possible replacements for ABC's rapidly fading daytime line-up.

According to Nellie Andreeva of Deadline.com, 4 of these shows were deemed good enough to go to pilot: "The Chew," "The Revolution," and a talk show and a dating show. And while Brian had originally only anticipated pulling the plug on one ABC Daytime drama, a combination of factors ...

Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved

  • In March, "AMC" delivered record low Nielsen ratings. This ABC soap came in dead last with the key demographic of women 18-49 years of age. Just 463,000 viewers in that demo were now watching "AMC." Which is down 34% in comparison to this daytime drama's viewership last year.
  • The two daytime programs that CBS introduced in the Fall of 2010 - "The Talk" and a brand-new version of that 1960s game show favorite, "Let's Make a Deal" as replacements for that network's own long-running soaps, "The Guiding Light" & "As the World Turns" - were making significant gains with afternoon TV viewers.
  • The last original episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will air on May 25th. And when the very last rerun of this syndicated talk show airs on September 9, 2011, nearly 3 million TV viewers will then have to change their daily viewing habits

Oprah Winfrey used her February 11, 2001 broadcast to pay tribute to the stars of ABC
Daytime. Copyright Harpo Productions, Inc. All rights reserved

... led Frons to believe that he had to move sooner -- rather than later -- to address ABC Daytime's problems.

As you might have expected, the actors and technicians who actually work on "All My Children" and "One Life to Life" were upset with the way that ABC handled this whole situation. The folks who were at NYC-based "OLTL" were annoyed that - rather than telling them in person - Brian broke the bad news via a video simulcast from the set of "AMC." Still others were angry about the timing of these two cancellations. Given that - since the 2011-2012 pilot season is basically over at this point - it'll be the better part of a year before any new acting opportunities emerge / new shows begin staffing up.

 Mind you, from the theme park side of things, it would appear that cancelling "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" might actually be a good thing. Since it's expected that "The Chew" (i.e. the replacement for "All My Children", a talk show that celebrates anything & everything relating to the world of food) will have a very strong presence at Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival & Disney's California Food and Wine Festival. Likewise, it's anticipated that "The Revolution" (i.e. the replacement for "One Life to Live." A new lifestyle show that - each week -will track one woman's five-month weight loss journey) will tie in with the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, the Disneyland Half-Marathon Weekend  as well as the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend.

Photo by Todd Anderson. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Of course, there are those who suggest that the timing of all this may wind up biting ABC Daytime big-time. Let's not forget that - just about the same time that "All My Children" will be going off the air - Regis Philbin will be exiting Disney / ABC Television Group's long-running syndicated morning talk show, "Live with Regis and Kelly." And if Regis' replacement fails to click with audiences ... Well, ABC Daytime may suddenly find that it has a lot more to deal with than "The Chew" 's shakedown cruise. Which will then make it difficult to give "The Revolution" all of the attention that this lifestyle show will need while it's in prelaunch mode.

This much is clear, though: You can expect that the Disney / ABC Television Group will do everything within its power to see that "The Chew" and "The Revolution" are launched  successfully. Which is why you can anticipate that "Good Morning America," "The View," "World News with Diane Sawyer," "20 / 20" and "Nightline" will all be featuring segments that directly tie back to these two new daytime programs in the Fall of 2011 as well as the Winter of 2011/12.

More to the point, ABC Daytime execs have reportedly already resigned themselves to the idea that - when "The Chew" debuts in September of 2011 and "The Revolution" premieres in January of 2012 - that this two new chat shows will (at least initially) get ratings that are about the same if not lower than "OLTL" and "AMC" got. But you have to remember that the Disney / ABC Television Group is thinking long term when it comes to these afternoon time slots. They're willing to take the time (more importantly, spend the money necessary) to build an audience for "The Chew" and "The Revolution" that's far more desirable to ABC's potential advertisers (read that as: younger and more affluent that your average soap viewer).

Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

And as for ABC's remaining soap opera, "General Hospital" ... Well, earlier this week, Brian Frons reassured daytime fans that GH ...

... should remain on ABC for a "long, long time."

But let's remember that - back in August of 2009 - that, as Brian was announcing "AMC" 's move to LA, that the president of ABC Daytime said ...

Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

" ... 'All My Children' is one of the most recognizable brands in television, and we are committed to continue telling and enhancing the stories of the residents of Pine Valley."

And as we know now, that commitment to "... telling stories" set in Pine Valley barely lasted two years. So one wonders what Frons' promise of a "long, long time" will eventually translate into for the people of Port Charles.

Let me stress here that I don't think that Brian Frons is a bad guy. By that I mean: If you look at the number of daytime dramas that CBS and NBC have cancelled over the past 12 years, it's clear that this business is changing and that ABC Daytime held out for as long as it could.

ABC's "Desperate Housewives" (L to R) Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, Vanessa Williams,
Eva Longoria and Felicity Huffman. Photo by Matthew Rolston. Copyright
American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

But now ... It's obviously time for people on "AMC" and "OLTL" to start brushing up their resumes. Some performers will clearly land on their feet quicker than others (There's a rumor making the rounds that Marc Cherry has already reached to Susan Lucci, asking "All My Children" 's resident diva if she'd like to become the newest resident of Wisteria Lane during Season 8 of ABC's long-running comedy-drama, "Desperate Housewives"), it's sad to see daytime drama being replaced by reality TV. Especially when you consider that - back in the 1950s, 1960s & 1970s - one of the main reasons that soap operas were so popular with housewives was because these shows then gave their viewers a break from their sometimes desperate realities.

So how do you feel about ABC Daytime's decision to pull the plug on two of its long-running soaps, "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" ? Could anything have been done to save these daytime dramas? Or were their exits kind of inevitable at this point?

Your thoughts?

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  • We will boycott ABC/Disney, their affiliates and sponsors.  What we watch in our homes is not decided by us but by corporate executives looking to make more money than God.  We, the fans, will do everything now in our power to bankrupt ABC, Disney, and any sponsors who stand by them.  We want these shows to continue but it past wanting them on the subpar ABC network or any network associated with them.  Brian Frons is an idiot as evidenced by his handling of ABC programming to-date.  He has no ethics and he has no morals.  He blatantly lied to the public and to his staff.  WE WANT HIM FIRED ALONG WITH ANNE SWEENEY - EQUALLY AS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS.  This seemingly minor act will change this country because Mr Frons obviously had no idea what the demographics actually are.

  • i am a 59 year old granmother. i grew up as did my children, with all my children, and one life. i used to be a fan of general hosp. but it got to be too much like the sopranos. i am disabled now and always watch these soaps. around my house duties or dr. visits. i feel disney has a lot of the cable stations at their  beck and call, and abc has lately say in the past 5 years lost so many programs and shows, there's not much to watch now but 10 hours of news. it might as well become cnn 2.  i think we have enough news. and there is a cooking channel, and food network. there are at least 8 shows teaching us how to eat,excercise,  diet, dress, be georgous.  and children aren't as nieve as you think they are. all these retarded show.s like zack and cody,hanna montana, thats so raven.  these are old a silly. kids are into the reality games where they can make and play their own person and create their own world and what they do. interact with another person with the same game system they have and talk with one another.  they don't like all these new game shows either. i know i have no use for them, leave our soaps alone, as bad as the world is now  a days, they help us escape for a couple of hours a day, and that, with my health issues helps me last another day. i guess i'll just let my cable go and start listening to the radio again. the night shows on now suck, and i refuse to watch 24/7   news, sometimes we can know morte than we really should.  i hop you all reconsider. thanks for the memories!!!

  • Television is a business, not a public service. If people are not watching the show and it's no longer making a prodfit why should a studio be forced to keep it on the air?  Flo,If a resturant creates a certain dish, no one orders it, buy you love it, should they be forced to make it just because you really liked it?  Should they be forced to leave that space open on their menu for something that many people would enjoy and possibly make them money to please one person?

  • Good points, Scott.  But I do understand where the passionate viewers are coming from, as I've watched All My Children almost religiously since 1975.  I am terribly sad to see it go and know I will have a big, empty hole in my life where AMC used to be.

    But that's our reality.  I've heard plenty of people take Flo's and Pamela's views - it's very personally painful that these shows are going away.  

    The reality is that the writing has been on the wall for the soaps for a very long time.  It's been a sad, slow decline since about the time of the OJ Simpson trial as cable became more proliferate.  That's been almost 20 years now.  People remember the heydays of the soaps in the 50's and the 80's, but those days aren't coming back again.  I'm thankful AMC held on as long as it did, but times have changed, and ABC is a business.  The soaps are expensive to produce and not making enough revenue.  The math is simple; letting go of the emotions isn't.

    I will treasure every last minute we have of All My Children, and hope they give us an ending to the show that's as wonderful as the funeral for Palmer Cortlandt.  Then they can bring out the "best of" DVD's and I will treasure them, too.

    It's not worth threatening never to watch a network again or boycotting the sponsors because of a business decision.  Times have changed - we had lots of warning that it was coming - now we need to accept it and move on.

    Sue in Texas

  • "The Chew" and "The Revolution" will both cost significantly less than the shows they replaced. The lower budgets will more than compensate for the lower ratings. To me, they are a step backwards. ABC is doing copycat. Borrowing concepts that worked for other networks.

    I will argue that these reality shows are unreality to the viewer. They are a snapshot to the lives of people that they don't know and don't have a similar experience. They are a modern equivalent to the soap opera.

  • I've been watching AMC since it began, when Erica and I were in high school.  It breaks my heart that the one program that I have watched faithfully for all these years is going down the drain for shows that  I have absolutely no interest in watching.

  • Are you kidding me. I'm 67 and I've been watching these shows since before Luke and Laura got married. I will never watch abc again,the day you cancel these shows. I was going to take my grandchildred (3) of them on the Disney cruise I will not do this now another vacation will be planned

  • I have watched All my Children and One life to Live since the begining, and consider the people of Pine Valley and Llanview to be my virtual friends.  I will be sad to see them go.  Isnt there a way to make the show more popular?  Maybe find more age appropriate sponsers.

    Would it be possible to come and watch a tapeing before it is all finished?  I would love to have that experience.

    Will some of the characters be moved to Port Charles?

    Will some of the actors move to other shows as other characters?

    I want to be on some kind of list so that I can keep up with my favorite actors, and be able to find them in the future.

    ABC, you have let me down.  These are icons of our time.  The people who watch are older and not up with all the tech stuff.  We just want to visit with people who have lives better and worse than our own.  They dont ask for anything and are always there.  

    Ohh, Oprah, can you help us?!  Buy  the dying show and make it Great again.  I would gladly change networks,.  The only thing on abc is the soaps.  I immediately change the channel when they, (and Oprah) are over.  There is nothing keeping me there except AMC, OLTL, and Oprah!  (GH, not so much).

    There are alot of older women in this country.  And more comeing in the future.  We dont wantn reality.  We have too much reality in reality and on tv.  We want fantasy.  Fantastic love, hate, morals, lack of morals, etc.  No more talk.  Wah wah wah.   Quit achin' and start using some imagination.

  • I am a 29 year old who has watched All My Children since I was 12 and I LOVE THAT SHOW!! I can't believe that Disney is pulling the Plug! Its Terrible and the show does NOT just appeal to the older viewers!! I hate reality TV!! This is a mistake!

  • I invite everyone to view my caricature in the cartoons section at mflinn.com. Please feel free to share the image in any way you see fit but please don't alter its format or content.

  • I am so glad they are bringing on the Chew.  What viewers need is a whole cable channel devoted to food and cooking.

  • Stop the madness! This has been my afternoon tradition for several years.  It is the reason I watch ABC from 7:00am until 5:00pm. I can leave the TV on the same channel all day and never have to change until Oprah goes off.  ABC has some loyal followers and you will lose this when you take our favorate soaps off of the air. I am very upset and I hope there is a way to save our soaps.

  • Absolutely tears my heart out.  I consume a large amount of the advertiser' products.  I am 53, disabled and these programs are what I looked forward to every day.  I feel this is a pointed attack at the baby boomer generation,  that have loved AMC, OLTL since our teenage years.  We have more numbers than any other demographic group in American History.  Obviously, ABC, who might as well hang a banner "We don't give 2 hoots in hell about all the huge numbers of you who have been extremely loyal for 43 yrs", 43 YEARS!  These  2 programs still deliver ratings the CHEW(ridiculous) and Revolutiion(ABC will definitely witness one!}.  I will, as will huge numbers of my peers, turn off ABC for good.  When the final lights go out in Llanwiew,PA, so will my ABC viewing for good.  I love some of their other programs and will miss some, but it won't nearly kill me, but cheapster Frons, (liar) cancelling my 42 year way of life just may.  Will phone my affiliates every bloody day.

  • abc I will not watch u at all anymore u suck and *** u all

  • abc I hope u drown and beg the soaps to come back, I am hoping oprah helps us and puts them on her channel  U make us sick

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