Friday, April 15, 2011

Executive Troll Logic

Brian Frons, the Machiavellian head of ABC Daytime was quoted by AP as he tried to explain the network's decision to simultaneously cancel All My Children and One Life to Live, "If you have a show in severe decline, you're trying to catch a falling knife." After that comment Frons flippantly 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 said to insiders. "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."

Really Brian? Are you kidding me? You are the head of Daytime programming on ABC and for the past 9 years you couldn't bring in new producers, writers and directors? You couldn't shoot the shows digitally and cut some corners by allowing the producers and writers to edit? Why weren't the ABC soaps EVER promoted in primetime? Why did you refrain from pulling together a top notch group of marketing and public relations teams that would have put soap stars on late night talk shows, on the covers of mainstream publications and the internet? Give us all a break Brian and spare us from your absurd corporate troll logic. It's nothing more than the same old rhetoric.

The truth of the matter is, Brian Frons was never cut out to be in charge of soap operas. He didn't understand them nor did he ever lift a finger to "cross-promote" and re-envision the shows. I'm willing to bet he rarely even sat down and watched a soap opera.

As it stands, All My Children will go off the air in September, replaced by The Chew, a live one-hour show about food and nutrition, featuring two cast members from Iron Chef America and nutrition expert Daphne Oz, Dr. Mehmet Oz's daughter. Frons described it as a cross between The View and a cooking show. One Life to Live lasts until January. Its replacement is The Revolution, made by the producers behind The Biggest Loser, and will be a health and lifestyle show featuring fashion expert Tim Gunn. Each week the show will focus on the weight loss transformation of one woman.

So to clarify Brian Frons' decision, he is willing to toss away at least 5 million viewers without so much as blinking an eye or looking back. In my opinion, this is an extremely risky decision, not to mention rash and delusional. I have said this many times before and I will say it again, the face of entertainment is rapidly changing as the "digital convergence" is upon us. It's leveling off the playing field and making dinosaurs out of the networks and studios.Once an audience becomes "interactive", where THEY have a say in what occurs... they will NEVER return to being "reactive"... And the power is perpetually shifting toward the audience. Never EVER underestimate that audience as they can make or break you.

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