FRONS SPEAKS: ABC Daytime Chief Explains Why ‘AMC’ & ‘OLTL’ Were Axed; Says ‘GH’ Is “Safe For Time Being”

Nellie Andreeva

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ABC DAYTIME SHAKEUP: Network Cancels BOTH ‘All My Children’ & ‘One Life To Live,’ Replaces Them With Lifestyle Series

EXCLUSIVE: ABC’s daytime president Brian Frons is the most hated man among soap fans today after the announcement that the network is canceling both All My Children and One Life To Live. He even quipped that he “pre-entered the witness protection program prior to today’s events.” The demise of the two venerable soaps was actually a year in the making, Frons tells me. “A year ago, we started to look at our projections where the ratings for the soaps would go,” he said. When those projections came in pretty discouraging, the network began to aggressively develop replacement shows, 15 of them. Four of the 15 were picked up to pilot: The Chew, The Revolution and two others, a talk show and a dating show. Originally, the idea was to cancel only one daytime drama, Frons said. But “the way the ratings developed and the pilots turned out, the ratings developed negatively and pilots developed positively, so we decided to make a bigger shift.”

The call to go ahead with canceling a daytime soap was made a couple of weeks ago, while the final decision to axe both AMC and OLTL was made within the past week, Frons said. He confirmed that there was a brief discussion about a year ago to combine the two soaps into one, bringing together some of the best characters from each series. “It was one of my craziest ideas,” Frons said. Other crazy ideas he had for the soaps’ slots? “I looked at (Bravo executive/talk show host) Andy Cohen and thought maybe I should have talk show.”

While ABC also developed more traditional daytime fare like talk and game shows, genres CBS recently used to replace its soaps The Guiding Light and As the World Turns, the network ultimately opted for more non-traditional fare with The Chew and The Revolution, both hybrid unscripted/talk shows. That was by design, said Frons, noting that he was following advice by his former boss at NBC Brandon Tartikoff not to go for shows others already have on.

“I wanted to do shows that were unusual for daytime,” Frons said. “What’s happening now is people are looking for information to make their lives better, they’re obsessed about what they eat and they’re obsessed with weight,” Frons said about going with The Chew and The Revolution, whose titles were chosen to complement ABC’s daytime talk show The View, with which they are designed to run in a “block of talk and information that you can build your day around,” Frons said. It probably doesn’t hurt that the new shows are also much cheaper to produce than the two soaps they are replacing, even after AMC was moved from New York to Los Angeles in 2009 to cut costs. Frons declined to discuss the size of the orders to The Chew and The Revolution but noted that “daytime shows take awhile” to take hold, indicating that ABC will give both series time to establish themselves.

As for the only remaining ABC daytime drama, General Hospital, it is safe “for the time being,” Frons said, adding, “We feel very positive about its place on the schedule.” Read More »

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ABC DAYTIME SHAKEUP: Network Cancels BOTH ‘All My Children’ & ‘One Life To Live,’ Replaces Them With Lifestyle Series

By | Thursday April 14, 2011 @ 11:23am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

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FRONS SPEAKS: ABC Daytime Chief Explains Why ‘AMC’ & ‘OLTL’ Were Axed; Says ‘GH’ Is “Safe For Time Being”

UPDATED: Goodbye Erica Kane. It is a sad day for soap fans, who are losing two more long-running daytime dramas. After relentless speculation over the past couple of months that ABC will cancel at least one of its three daytime soaps, the network today announced it will pull the plug on both All My Children and One Life To Live. All My Children will end its 41-year run in September, One Life to Live will bow out in January after 43 years. They will be replaced by two new unscripted shows, The Chew and The Revolution, respectively. The move leaves General Hospital as the only soap in ABC’s daytime lineup.

Produced by Gordon Elliot (Paula Deen’s Home Cooking), The Chew is a live show about anything and everything related to the world of food and beyond. Hosts include Mario Batali (Iron Chef America), Clinton Kelly (TLC’s What Not to Wear), Carla Hall (Bravo’s Top Chef), Michael Symon (Iron Chef America), nutrition expert Daphne Oz and chef Danny Boome. The Revolution, from JD Roth and 3 Ball Prods. (The Biggest Loser), is a daily show about health and lifestyle transformations. The show, starring fashion expert Tim Gunn as well as celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak and American Idol alum Kimberley Locke, each week follows one woman’s five-month weight loss journey, which unfold in five days, with daily results and a final transformational reveal on Friday.

With the drumbeat of a pending ABC daytime drama cancellation getting louder, attention focused on this week, which marked ABC daytime president Brian Frons’ return from vacation, as decision time. The writing had been on the wall: With ratings for daytime dramas continuing to decline, CBS and NBC had already pared down the number of their soaps, with CBS canceling The Guiding Light and As The World Turns and NBC pulling Passions. With three daytime dramas, ABC had as many as CBS and NBC combined, with AMC and OLTL ranking dead last in total viewers and AMC recently hitting a series of all-time lows in the key women 18-49 demographic. The only possible reason for ABC to keep that many soaps around, sister cable network SoapNet, which repurposes the series, is going away, replaced by Disney Jr next year. So the only question was what type of shows ABC would replace its soaps with. “While we are excited about our new shows and the shift in our business, I can’t help but recognize how bittersweet the change is,” Frons said today in making the announcement. “We are taking this bold step to expand our business because viewers are looking for different types of programming these days. They are telling us there is room for informative, authentic and fun shows that are relatable, offer a wide variety of opinions and focus on ‘real life’ takeaways.” He also stressed the new shows’ “enormous opportunity for the creation of ancillary businesses and growth.” They also appear much cheaper than the dramas they are replacing.

As for AMC and OLTL, “they are iconic pieces of television that have made an indelible mark on our culture’s history,” Frons said. Both shows were created by Agnes Nixon. AMC is headlined by one of the most recognizable soap stars, Susan Lucci, who has been on the show since the very beginning playing Erica Kane, dubbed the most famous daytime soap character of all time. All My Children, which revolved around the lives of the residents of fictional Pine Valley, premiered on ABC on Jan. 5, 1970, as a half-hour show; it was expanded to an hour seven years later. One Life to Live, set in the fictional town of Llanview, debuted on ABC on July 15, 1968, also as a half-hour show. Ten years later, it was expanded to a full hour. Notable alumni of the two soaps include Kelly Ripa, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Melissa Leo, Christian Slater and Amanda Seyfried (AMC) and Ryan Phillippe, Nathan Fillion, Marcia Cross, Tommy Lee Jones and Judith Light (OLTL). Read More »

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