Despite the rainy New York day, around 50 people rallied in support of soaps outside Lincoln Center on May 17th as ABC pitched its fall line-up to prospective advertisers and the press. As the attendees of ABC’s Upfront meeting gathered outside Avery Fisher Hall, supporters of scripted daytime television were across the street with picket signs and bullhorns, calling for support in protesting ABC. Next to them, members of the broadcast union NABET-CWA held up signs that called ABC-Disney out on union busting and their unfair contracts. “Bad to working families,” read one sign as soap supporters chanted and several specially chartered tour buses circled the block with colorful NBC advertisements splashed over their exteriors.
By that afternoon several sources including The Wrap, Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter hastily reported numbers between 30 and “a couple dozen” attended the soap rally. On the streets with protesters were reporters from CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), the LA Times and We Love Soaps.
Also in attendance to show support for fans and the soaps were Colleen Zenk (Barbara Ryan, ATWT), Ilene Kristen (Roxy Balsom, OLTL and Delia Reid, Ryan’s Hope), and Mimi Torchin (founder of Soap Opera Weekly).
The local police were asked on several occasions if the fan rally was legal and repeatedly checked the permits. At the end of ABC’s meeting, ABC Daytime President Brian Frons — now notoriously known as a “serial killer” for allowing the death of daytime TV’s scripted dramas — strolled past protestors on his way to the after-party and chuckled.
Perhaps Frons was unaware or perhaps he is just that callous, but the greatest success of the day for soap viewers was that while a limited number were able to attend the Tuesday afternoon rally in New York City, many others were contacting sponsors the old fashioned way, and those who were at the rally had some key points printed which they handed to advertisers and the media.
The flyer stated:
“ABC/Disney has a three-prong strategy to increase its revenues: (1) cutting production costs by 30%; (2) maintaining current advertising levels; and (3) increasing product placement on their new ‘life-style’ shows. Consider carefully whether ABC/Disney’s strategy will increase your company’s revenue or create consumer loyalty toward your products. Your consumers see ABC/Disney’s move to new daytime programming for what it is — glorified infomercials appropriate for late-night basic cable channels, not for a major broadcast network.
Your consumers ask you to:
- Recognize that ABC is behind the curve with its move to reality programming in a market already over-saturated with ‘life-style’ shows. While other networks are seeking more scripted drama, ABC is replacing a stable daytime line-up that has served advertisers and affiliates well for over 40 years.
- Stand up for quality scripted daytime drama as both an art form and an economic stimulus. 800+ employees will be displaced as a result of ABC/Disney’s decision to cut production costs by favoring reality shows over scripted drama.
- Be aware many viewers began boycotting ABC primetime programming when soap cancellations were announced and will continue boycotting all ABC programming other than soaps.
- Inform ABC/Disney you are disappointed with its decision to cancel long-running soap operas, and ask ABC/Disney to reconsider that decision.
- Demonstrate support for the soap genre and your consumers by advertising only during All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital. Decline advertisement on The Chew or The Revolution.
- Understand that, while many soap viewers have not instituted boycotts of ABC advertisers yet, they do intend to boycott sponsors who purchase advertisement or participate in product placement on any show replacing an ABC soap.
- Expand your advertising focus beyond the 18-49 demographic. ABC has used this ‘key’ demographic to justify the cancellations of soaps and reprogramming of their line-up. Consider current economic conditions, and use the size and buying power of the Baby Boomer generation to reinvigorate stale advertising concepts.
- Encourage more accurate methods to measure audience than the antiquated Nielsen system.
- Express interest in advertising during soap operas if they are aired on SOAPnet, which should continue as a niche ‘soap channel’ by converting its business model to a combination of subscription and advertising.
- Acknowledge the continued popularity of serialized drama as evidenced by Telemundo’s telenovelas ratings and their success in recent Upfronts.
- Join with Hoover in pulling ads and standing proud with soap fans. Hoover’s loyalty is being richly rewarded in terms of social media chatter, mainstream publicity, and most importantly sales.”
As television media and advertisers left the meeting, some paused to take pictures of the protest with their cell phones. The rally was organized and publicized by Soap Fans United, represented in New York by Shawn Brady on behalf of all soap viewers and supporters of the genre. The group thanked as many attendees as possible on their website.