ABC daytime chief on canceling soaps: 'I never thought I'd be the guy to take two of the shows off'
ABC head of daytime programming Brian Frons told EW that he’s replacing All My Children and One Life to Live with The Chew and The Revolution because viewers crave information that can help improve their lives.
“We started with what was succeeding for us, and that is The View,” said Frons (pictured with AMC star Susan Lucci). ” We did a lot of research and there’s a lot of desire for information on the part of our audience. They want relatable hosts, things that they could use in their lives. When they watch The Chew, it’s going to feel like a talk show in some segments, and like a cooking show in others. It’s like The View meets food.
“In the case of The Revolution, people are obsessed with weight in this country,” he continued. “They want a better life. This show delivers that.”
He also hopes both shows will delivers in the ratings and profits — something that became increasingly difficult with AMC and OTLT. Both sudsers recently underwent cost-saving changes like changing production locales (AMC is now in the Los Angeles area, for example) but that wasn’t enough to keep them afloat. AMC averages 2.5 million and ranks No. 5 in women 18-49 among all soaps. OLTL averages 2.5 million and ranks No. 4 in the female demo.
“Viewership for the shows is in a decline,” he said. “We had trouble making profit on these shows, particularly on All My Children.”
Frons told the cast and crew of AMC personally before the announcement went out to the press some 15 minutes later. (The cast and crew of the New York-based OLTL was video linked at the same time). Unlike when CBS announced the demise of Guiding Light and As the World Turns, Frons said it was important to immediately reveal how the soaps will be replaced because “otherwise we will appear like we have no plan. It’s important for our affiliates. If we make the decision to take off two shows we value, then they need to know how we will replace them.”
The daytime executive admitted it wasn’t easy to make the cancellation call. “It’s very sad for me,” he said. “I came here because I wanted to work on the ABC soaps. I worked in CBS and NBC daytime and I always envied the quality and people who ABC had. I never imagined when I came in August of 2002 that I’d be the guy to take two of the shows off.”
Frons also was the guy to defend the company’s decision to shutter SOAPnet to make way for Disney Junior in January, 2012. At the time of the announcement last May, Frons told EW that while it was “sad news because it is a channel that’s been dedicated to soap fans, it’s not a dink on soap operas.” The beauty of SOAPnet was that it helped to keep the ailing genre viable; production companies that remain in the soap business were able to generate additional revenue by selling their reruns to the cable channel.
Soap fans should take some comfort in knowing that General Hospital will not be affected by the changes and, in fact, should remain on ABC for a “long, long time,” Frons said. It’s too early to say, however, whether the Los Angeles-based sudser will absorb some of the actors from AMC or OLTL.
The executive seems resigned to receiving a flurry of complaint emails and letters. “We didn’t expect anybody who has been a passionate viewer for a long period of time to be happy about this, and so we are hoping the head writers will be able to craft emotionally satisfying goodbyes. It’s not as good as having them continue. But we are having them turn the lights out the best we can.”