A few short days of our lives ago, Brian Frons, Head of ABC Daytime sent shock waves through the viewing community by announcing the cancellation of two of the three ABC Daytime Soap Operas, All My Children (AMC) and One Life to Live (OLTL.) The announcement came on the heels of a report in TV Guide that AMC was on the block, and OLTL would be next to go. For those of you who are soap fans, or who follow entertainment news in general the reaction that came out of the fan base was unsurprising. Adding fuel to the fire was Frons’ statement that he would not listen to or respond to fan calls or letters regarding the cancelled shows, and his further contention that even with lower ratings, his new lifestyle shows were what he believed the viewers wanted to see. For ABC, however, the strength of the viewers’ consumer dollars may yet force Frons to re-think his decision, or force ABC to let him go. If ‘The Chew” (slated to replace AMC in September) and ‘The Revolution’ (slated to replace OLTL in January) tank, what will ABC do with two hours of dead air?
Fans of the two cancelled soaps have created a number of online petitions and have been putting immense pressure on advertisers to pull out of ABC in protest (as of the time this goes to press, Hoover has pulled out of ABC.) There is even a nationwide group with a website and online store (www.protestabcacrossamerica.com) that is planning a massive boycott of all ABC programming and is directing members to a ‘targeted advertiser of the day’ to keep the pressure directed and consistent. Already, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars has taken a ratings and word of mouth hit, as soap fans tuned out, and vow to continue doing so. Stars like Robin Strasser (Dorian-OLTL,) Catherine Hickland (ex Lindsay-OLTL) and Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis-General Hospital) have taken to Twitter and given interviews and made statements supporting the fan-based movement to keep the shows on-air. Grahn recently ‘Tweeted’ “If soap fans were on the titanic…it would never had sunk.” That is a lot of faith to put into your viewers. And the viewers have no intention of letting them down. On the calendar is a series of events, all aimed at garnering media attention and embarrassing ABC. From ‘Flash Mobs’ at ‘Good Morning America’ to strip protests at ‘The View,’ the fans do not plan on taking this lying down. Some groups are even trying to raise money to buy airtime to run a “SOS” (Save Our Soaps) commercial on another network.
There has been some criticism lobbed at the soap fans, however, and ABC leaked an unofficial statement while this article was being written that advertiser withdrawals like the one by Hoover would have the opposite of the desired effect. True, it may seem counterintuitive to ask advertisers to withdraw their dollars from the network while the shows are still running, but without the availability of advertiser funds, Frons will never be able to get his planned lifestyle shows off the ground. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the rubber parts?