On Thursday April 14, 2011 ABC announced the cancellation two of my favorite Soap Operas “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”; they are two of the longest running shows on daytime television.
Even though there had been rumors for months about these cancellations, it still felt as though the shows were yanked away without a plausible explanation. The Problem: According to Brian Frons, President of ABC Daytime is that the shows weren’t making money and there isn’t enough people home in the daytime tuning in to these shows. ABC replaced these two classic shows with two new “lifestyle and cooking” shows (that I won’t even mention) – unfortunately, there is a demand for reality television shows. New episodes of AMC will air until September, OLTL until January 2012.
How can you resolve a situation that you can’t measure? Did Brian Frons and ABC Daytime calculate the viewer properly? Soaps had been cancelled before and the fans responded with a vengeance! It all started in 2007 with the cancellation of “Passions” on NBC; then in 2009 it was “The Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns” on CBS — fans sent thousands of bars of soap to CBS (and it is rumored that it was cause for the FBI to investigate) and they sent in a grave-spray with a ribbon that referenced “killing the soaps”.. With the cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live will leave four soaps on the air: The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful on CBS and Days of Our Lives on NBC; and General Hospital, the last on ABC.
This is viral marketing at its best…There was an S.O.S. (Save our Soaps) outpour of fan support and outrage! Within hours of hearing the dreadful news, fans began to take action to send a strong message to Frons, the network and the sponsors stressing the importance of keeping these fan favorites on the air. The thousands of fans began uniting on Twitter and Facebook instantly; they formed an instant alliance mostly because they all shared similar stories … that they “grew up” with these SOAPS… that it was something they watched with their mother or grandmother… that losing these shows was like a “death in the family”. The fansites and fans have developed petitions, for which thousands of signatures have been engaged. The soap fans ARE structured and organized; they are accessible and they are sweet but they are tenacious and they will not stop until there is a solution. Some of the fans have formed groups independently (Dont Cancel Oltl) ; some have formed a “rally” (Rally for Amc and Oltl ) and some groups have banned together so that they elevate visible numbers; they have formed a community site to disseminate information, by setting up event pages and fanpages on Facebook, such as: Info 4 Saving our Soaps (Video, Stories, Successes), and Lets Show NBC how many viewers they could gain if they pick up AMC and OLTL and all of these pages are generating thousands of “LIKES”. These are customized pages on Facebook that have banded together and are rallying coordinated efforts to flood the network and affiliates/sponsors with emails, calls, posts, etc. Their mission is to target one or two sponsors each day with their plan. Fans are donating money for advertising; they are offering marketing plans and graphic design services; they are selling merchandise such as t-shirts and postcards… they are ALL (for the most part) working together. These fans unanimously agreed that ABC, specifically Brian Frons and his business strategy lieutenant Kate Nelson had made a dreadful mistake. One of the campaigns is to “Fire Brian Frons” and most Facebook fans are using an avatar of Frons in a devils garment. One key group on Facebook “Protest ABC Across America” was organized by Ronda Kennedy along with several other group admins; they formed a plan to be coordinated in an organized manner … a 3Phase plan created by a Public Relations company, so that fans were presenting their thoughts as a “unified front”. They even posted “guidelines” on the fanpages to regulate how fans react to each other and in approaching the networks and sponsors… believing that they need to speak softly but carry a big stick. Each day starts off with a noted “target” of who to call or write/email that day… everyone knows what they need to do, and with the exception of a few personality conflicts… these girls are a SOAP ARMY! Brian Frons did not know who he was messing with… we are grown women who are educated, most are in the workforce, we have raised our children, our grandchildren, cared for our parents, we have loved and we have lost… be we are in for a fight because we do not want to lose these shows. Most of the women are creative and resourceful and will donate their time and resources for this fight; some women are attorneys, marketing professionals, public relations/communications specialists, graphic designers, IT/Web analysts, consultants… and should I add that the number of men joining our groups is increasing daily!
Why these shows are called SOAPS: The reason these shows are called SOAPS is mainly due to the original sponsors, specifically “soap companies” such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Lever Brothers . These companies are the “bread & butter” for daytime drama… and so the fans decided to “hit them where they breathe” , where the network is extremely vulnerable and they would contact the sponsors and affiliates … they wanted the ads pulled; thankfully early on the Hoover company [the famous vacuum-cleaner manufacturer— one of the most iconic brands in the US] announced that they would pull their advertising. Brian Kirkendal, VP of Marketing for Hoover was sensitive to the fans, since his wife and mother are loyal fans of these shows; Kirkendal shared his mother and wife’s reactions and that of many in the Hoover family and then he sent a message on Monday, April 18th on Facebook “To Our Loyal ABC Soap Fans”… that they would “discontinue our advertising with ABC this Friday, 4/22. We’re making every attempt to pull our spots from these programs sooner.”… He said “we also want to help get your voice heard with ABC. So, we’ve set up a special email address, SaveTheSoaps@Hoover.com, to help pull together the mass emotional outpouring of support for our beloved ABC soaps and get it to our contacts at ABC. Please, send your emails to us at SaveTheSoaps@Hoover.com, and we’ll get every, single last one of them to ABC.” He said that Hoover is committed 150% to what matters… that must have been a serious blow to Frons… he was flabbergasted, after all pulling support because a show was cancelled instead of the other way around was literally unthinkable. The fans were very appreciate of Hoover and they flooded the call centers and inboxes with “thank-you’s”; they even bought Hoovers and promoted a Hoover discount for fans; they even started using Hoover images as avatar icons on Facebook and Twitter and profiling the Hoover picbadge .. This was unbelievable and changes the ways of marketing. Other advertisers are feeling the heat from these soap fans and they are not ignoring them at all… I see more ad dollars being pulled very soon.
Still, the ABC protestors have to continue targeting other sponsors to pull their advertising and saturate correspondence to the other networks in hopes that they will pick up these shows from ABC. Part of the plan is for a live demonstration against ABC/Disney and their affiliates on Tuesday, April 26th. Fan outrage was noticed by the SOAP actors, who have tweeting that they will attend the protests. In fact, just a few days after the announcement, the stars spoke out to SOAPS IN DEPTH – there were many responses but mostly they agreed it was wrong, and they were both shocked and saddened by the news. Former “All My Children” star Kelly Ripa (“Live with Regis and Kelly”) admits she’s “heartsick” over the news and that “This is like losing a member of your family”. One of the next plans of attack (after the protest on April 26th) is hitting the “Today Show” on Monday, May 9th at 6:00am at Rockefeller Plaza in NYC. These girls have a “plan of attack” for nearly every state and they have groups in each state as organizers. There is rumor that fans have contacted The Guinness Book of World Records to qualify for the largest-ever mass demonstration (on 4/26) of this kind. It doesn’t sound as though Brian Frons calculated the soap viewers properly…. this is a huge opportunity for these shows to remain on the air AND make a huge profit… especially with all this free publicity! Why wouldn’t any network want to put on shows for this many viewers?
By the weekend, fans were going through the grieving process (the five stages of grief: 1) denial/isolation, 2) anger, 3) bargaining, 4) depression and 5) acceptance) – the anger and bargaining were kicking in and they were looking to someone or another station to host these shows… why not Oprah, after all she loves “All My Children”. Unlike others who had been approached, Oprah responded to the fan emails, calls and letters asking her and her OWN cable network to take over All My Children and One Live to Live… she spoke to the fans in the form of a video (she didn’t want anyone to quote her incorrectly on such a sensitive subject). The message was clear that she couldn’t and wouldn’t “save” the SOAPS. Her main point is that the audience is no longer a one television household, and since times have changed were more women are in the workforce, the viewer numbers just aren’t there. She said “If there was a dime left to be made from them on broadcast television, it would still be happening. All things come to an end. All things have their time. I will not be taking on the responsibility to revive an institution that, for all intent and all purpose, indicates that time has come for it to be over. Thank for you for believing I can save them, but I really can’t.” Well she made her point, she called it the “bone-marrow truth” although she did not seem as though she was empathic at all and if she did want to help there are ways to do it… Well Oprah… it’s easy… take over the shows on the OWN network and slot them in for different times.
Watch the Video!
If you can’t stand the heat… get out of the kitchen! If Brian Frons wasn’t ready for this outpour of fan outrage, he should have planned more and thought about what he was doing. ABC is already feeling the “heat” since the viewers of Dancing with the Stars dropped on Monday 4/18 when soap fans switched their channels; and this was announced just after the thrill of a spike up in ratings when Chris Brown performed on DWTS- it was the best-ever season-opening results show with nearly 19 million viewers – an increase in 31% from the previous year. The show was already being criticized for having a dry line-up, so they could not afford this result. Another blow in the forecast will be on April 29th, the Royal Wedding… fans are already sending the message that they will NOT be watching on ABC.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Whoever picks up these shows is getting gold… the proof of that is evidenced by these relentless fans. I have also reaped the benefits… I have a whole new circle of friends and blog follower.
What’s next? There is talk that General Hospital will be the next show to get cancelled. Actors are anticipating this move…it’s more than a possibility that more sponsors will pull their advertising dollars and a strong possibility that another network will host these shows. It is also said that SOAPnet is supposedly shutting down in January 2012 and being replaced by Disney Junior; however new reports suggest that it may be the Spring 2012. At this time, many fans watch the SOAPS on SOAPnet since they are run at off hours for “the working/busy viewer”; you can watch AMC and OLTL after dinner or at 2am and then again at 7am; additionally, this station plays shows that have been cancelled, such as Ryan’s Hope. With the shutdown of SOAPnet the fans won’t have anywhere to watch SOAPS at all.
The Answer: I don’t know if there is one that will make everyone pleased but I am hoping that Brian Frons will actually count the entire audience, not just the television… one per household rule; that he will recognize that he may need to adjust the budget or move the time slots; that maybe ABC needs to change with the times instead of blaming the financial dilemma on the housewife who went into the job market. Perhaps he could ask the fans to keep the TV on the ABC channel when they’re at work and / or record them even though we watch the shows at night on SOAPnet… why not add all the numbers together? For years the networks and their sponsors have relied on the 18-49 demographic and have minimized racial/ethnic groups, they have discounted the on-line viewing, out-of-home viewing etc. – all they have to do is calculate correctly… no one can steal the show viewings, it’s not like the music /movie business where people download music and movies which causes CD/DVD sales to drop. The fans have created a Facebook page called 18–40somthings for AMC & OLTL that wants to hear from the targeted demographic. The people who are responsible for measuring these numbers are clueless. Read the Naked Nielsons; a recent blog post by Marty Kaplan, who examines the metrics and rating analytics.
When I was in clinical nursing, I recall elderly groups that would congregate at the television at 1:00 “no matter what” and I know how passionate that all were… what will happen to them? Sometimes these shows are the glue for mother/daughter/grandmother relationships and in these times for husband and wife (my hubby watched them with me). People want to watch shows that are NOT reality because reality sucks for some people; they want to see the fashion, the latest hairstyles (OMG, how many women wanted that Erica Kane hairstyle in the 80’s) or what mystery can be solved… sometimes that want to just fade away into someone else’s world. So why does Frons think these women want to see a reality show on cooking or?? Are you serious? These soap operas are an institution; they are part of our family history; cancelling these shows is like cancelling “Monday Night Football” or “Good Morning America” – these shows are a part of our culture.
When will the drama end? I just don’t want our shows to end.
Spread the word until you are heard! Say it loud, and say it proud!
Write … email … call… if you’re a fan who is angry, saddened and sick behind this announcement… do something! See the attached document for a list of contacts which includes names, titles, addresses, phone #, fax# and email addresses.
Soap Fans take matters into their own hands, massive nationwide protest in front of ABC stations and Disney studio April 26
“ABC’s decision to cancel All My Children and One Life to Live saddens me greatly. I treasure the decades that the worlds of Pine Valley and Llanview were brought to life by our talented casts and crews. I appreciate that the network allowed our teams to break new dramatic ground and always supported our commitment to the honest portrayal of social issues. We hope we have entertained our viewers and perhaps even educated them along the way. My deep gratitude goes to all the talented people who have contributed to All My Children and One Life To Live over these many years; we were always family; made up of writers, producers, directors, actors, crews. Equally important in that family are our loyal fans who shared this journey with us. Although ABC has concluded there is no longer a place for our shows on their network I shall do everything possible to keep them alive. God bless you all.”
-Agnes Nixon, April 15, 2011