Open Mic

ABC Blew an Opportunity When It Announced It Was Killing 'All My Children' and 'One Life to Live'

Arthur Sando Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:40 AM

[Editor's Note: This is the first entry from a new TVWeek Open Mic blogger, Arthur Sando. Sando is a public relations/corporate communications specialist who has worked with some of the most dynamic individuals and companies in the TV industry, most notably Ted Turner and his Turner Broadcasting, and Roger King and his King World. This commentary first appeared on Jeff Grimshaw's The TV News, which can be found at www.thetvnews.tv, and we appreciate Jeff letting us reprint it.]

It’s really not so much what ABC did, but how they did it when the network recently announced it was canceling "All My Children" and "One Life to Live."  Nobody disputes the fact that the audience for soap operas is aging and shrinking, and that soaps are becoming economically unfeasible to produce.

But ABC’s canceling of two 40-year-old institutions with practically no notice was a tremendous jolt to an extremely loyal audience.

There are probably no fans more loyal than soap fans. Many of them schedule their day around what they affectionately call “my shows,” and a lot of them have done that for a long time, and have developed a very personal relationship with the characters in these shows. So it should be no surprise that this news has caused a profound sense of loss and anger among those viewers who are really going to miss their daily dose of soaps.

Certainly, the writing has been on the wall for some time that this day would come, so I think ABC blew an opportunity to prepare its audience. Six months ago, it could have told viewers that if the numbers didn’t improve, the shows would be canceled. That really could have motivated fans to take some action.

Now, judging by activity on Facebook, it’s clear that many fans are up in arms, so while it may be too late to save "All My Children" and "One Life To Live," the network should show that it cares and reach out to these fans, solicit their thoughts and engage them in a social media dialogue to let them know that their ideas are being heard, that their feelings are being considered and that they are, indeed, part of the process.

By making viewers feel shut out, ABC risks breaking a bond of trust with a significant and reliable core audience. And in today’s fractured television universe, that’s the last thing a network should be doing.#