Less than a week after the cancellations of ABC’s daytime dramas All My Children and One Life To Live emotions are still raw, with the frustration of soap fans and people who worked on the two shows often focused on ABC Daytime president Brian Frons and his business strategy lieutenant Kate Nelson. The demise of the sudsers is part of a larger strategy by Disney to get out of the soap business that also claimed cable channel SOAPNet, set to be rebranded as Disney Jr. early next year. But before the Disney Channel team’s concept was chosen by Disney/ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney, there were several other ideas for the channel that came out of the ABC Daytime division. Here is an insider’s perspective on the events that led to the cancellation of AMC and OLTL, as well as on some of the consequences, by a person who has worked at the company:
I have worked at ABC Daytime for several years and have experienced a lot of the ups and downs especially since Brian Frons and Kate Nelson took over. With the announcement of the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Life, I feel that they completely failed all of the people that worked for them.
A couple of years ago, they started a project to evolve SOAPNet into a new female network that was code named “Carrie.” Anne Sweeney had told them that they needed to evolve the network for the future, especially as more people had DVRs and just airing soaps at night was not enough. They pitched an idea to make the network hip and cool for women, basically the type of woman that Carrie was in Sex and the City. We thought that it was a go and then found out that the executives rejected their idea all together.
Then they started again to pitch a product called DM – Disney Moms. The idea this time was a network that moms would want to watch and their families would watch with them, cooking shows, dancing shows basically everything that is found on other networks. It was part of that project that they started talking about combing All My Children and One Life to Live. They were putting together ideas of what would replace the one soap and were competing against an idea called Good Afternoon America. They failed to convince anyone that their idea was good, they had a pilot with Aisha Tyler that was awful.
At the same time, the Disney Channel team pitched Disney Junior, and when Anne compared DM and Disney Junior, she decided to shutdown SOAPNet and replace it with Disney Junior. They were furious and made some nasty comments about how the Disney Channel team went behind everyone’s back and stole their channel.
Over the last 6 months, our entire team has been under the impression that SOAPNet was going to shut down in January 2012 and be replaced with Disney Junior. Over the last few weeks, I have heard comments that Disney Junior is now having problems getting the cable contracts done. So Disney Junior’s launch has been pushed from January to Spring 2012 and now SoapNet is not shutting down in January 2012. Both networks will be run at the same time it could be for several years, Disney Junior will only be in a few homes and a lot of money will be spent keeping both networks up. So now we are shutting down AMC in September and OLTL in January, and SOAPNet is still going to be on the air, we are going to run a network on General Hospital and some acquired soaps, it is embarrassing to all of us who had cared so much about our work.
We are not just angry that they are shutting down AMC and OLTL, but over the last 3-4 years we have been following a leader and his head of strategy who have not been able to do anything right.
A few notes. A Disney source says the company never set January as a launch date for Disney Jr., which had been targeting an early 2012 premiere. The source admitted that carriage negotiations have been going slowly but stresses that their complicated nature, with a number of other bigger channels besides Disney Jr. involved, has been holding deals up. A number of cable, satellite providers and telcos, including Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Verizon, have expressed interest in carrying both SoapNet and Disney Jr. for the period of time they co-exist, the person says. The source also claims that the process of selecting SoapNet’s successor was open, with all Disney divisions invited by Sweeney to pitch their concepts.