ABC has caused an uproar by confirming the rumors that have been circulating for months. It announced that it has cancelled two of its three long-running daytime dramas and will be replacing them with talk shows.
The reason for the cancellations are financially based even though ABC insists that it is because the viewers want something different. It is true that viewership of soap operas has changed from when ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live’ originally debuted back some 40 plus years ago. Women, who were the target audience for daytime dramas, are now working mothers and few are home during the day to watch their stories.
Because of technology like dvr’s, many faithful female and male fans can watch their favorite daytime dramas at any time they choose. Cable channel Soap Net reruns the daytime dramas in the evenings, morning and weekends so the devout soap opera fan doesn’t have to miss an episode.
There has been a huge outcry of anger over the cancellation of these two soap operas. Many fans don’t want another talk show or lifestyle program. We have cable channels that are full of these kinds of programming.
It is surprising that ABC would take this step. Messing with loyal soap opera fans can cause the network to see a real drop in viewers and also an organized boycott of Disney, the parent company of ABC. The rumors about a possible cancellation were flying around on the Internet months ago when in an effort to reduce production costs, ABC began airing their 3 daytime dramas 4 days a week instead of the normal 5. One day a week they would show ‘best of’ highlights from ‘All My Children’, ‘One Life to Live’ and ‘General Hospital’.
Several months ago ABC also stopped filming ‘All My Children’ in New York City and instead moved production out to the California. They dropped some cast members and some chose to leave the show voluntarily because they did not want to have to relocate. Susan Lucci, who plays the popular Erica Kane on ‘All My Children’ even admitted on ‘Oprah’ that she took a pay cut in order to keep the show running. She did not want to see people lose their jobs and agreed to a pay reduction.
The costs of producing a daytime drama are much higher than producing a talk show. It really is sad that ABC had their employees relocate across the country only to let them go a few months later. Even when they tried to cut back their costs by not airing shows five days a week they had to know that they would be pulling the plug on these popular shows.
As anyone who has ever acted on a daytime drama knows, it is a challenging and fast-moving pace. Daytime dramas have kept up with the times and address issues like same-sex relationships, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse and many other timely topics. Although they are seen as an escape for most fans, many times the quality of the writing and storylines are a public service. ‘All My Children’ was the first daytime drama to have a lesbian character. They addressed abortion when no one else did. They have tackled the subject of AIDS and even transgenders.
ABC might be saving money by cancelling these staples of daytime television but they will lose with viewers and that will cost them more money than they realize.