Sorry Anne Sweeney, But The Executive Indecisions at ABC Daytime Are About More Than 'Eyeballs'

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Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney told Deadline.com that while ABC isn't announcing the cancellation of General Hospital as Katie Couric steals the iconic soap's timeslot, the Mouse House has to start looking at daytime like they do primetime.

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"We are not announcing the cancellation of General Hospital," Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney/ABC TV Group said today, but also added, "It is important to look at daytime like we do at primetime -- it really is about eyeballs, and we will go with the shows that have the most viewership."

If that's their strategy then we soap fans are in more trouble than we thought, since ABC's primetime lineup came in 3rd out of the Big Four in the Nielsens for the 2010-11 TV season. Also, riddle me this: If it's really about eyeballs, then why wasn't the ABC soap lineup safe?

Everyone in the soap press has received and reported on those positively glowing press releases touting ABC Daytime's dominance in the Women 18-49 and Women 18-34 demos in recent years. We've seen countless media alerts praising One Life to Live for besting The Talk on CBS week after week. Was any of that true or just lies passed off as public relations?

ABC owns its serials outright—has since 1975—therefore ABC Daytime Chief Brian Frons had much more flexibility than execs at NBC or CBS in terms of figuring out how to make All My Children, General Hospital and One Life to Live profitable. A man with success in the foreign TV market, however failed to extend the licensing and syndication of the ABC soaps globally, according to Fancast's Sara Bibel. Meanwhile The Young and the Restless, The Bold and The Beautiful and Days of Our Lives, all of which are heavily syndicated in foreign marketsare all poised to outlive the ABC Daytime soap lineup.

Perhaps Frons didn't have time to sell ABC soaps as aggressively as needed for their survival because he was too busy trying to write and cast them? Bill Bell, Jr., president of Bell Dramatic Serial Company, created a separate company to specifically focus on the foreign distribution of Y&R and B&B, the latter of which is the most watched serial in the world. Bell reportedly concerns himself very little with the creative aspects of his family soaps. Am I the only one who sees the correlation? 

Sure, we may not like all the doppelgangers in Genoa City on Y&R or the horny berries in SoCal on B&B, but those soaps are most assuredly turning more of a profit than the soaps ABC owns, and that makes little sense. Of course there's also Sony, which co-owns Y&R and DAYS, to factor in. That entertainment giant has also concerned itself with ensuring the soaps they have a vested interest in staying on the air (Though I hear they do like to meddle a bit on the creative side as well).

While Frons was allegedly forcing the casting of Crystal Hunt (complete with a reported mandate that she be seen in her panties and bra often)on OLTL, embarking on a "Real Greenlee" campaign and allowing a stripper pole to be added to a set at AMC and dictating whch couples be broken up on GH, the late Bill Bell's heirwas doing what an executive is supposed to do, and that's make sure the bills are paid and a profit is turned. 

Whether or not Y&R and B&B's foreign take will be enough to keep them in production if they keep shedding viewers in the U.S. remains to be seen. After all, we know how CBS Prexy Les Moonves feels about  "client soaps," but the question I would love to have answered is, if Frons had been half as concerned with selling his soaps as he was micromanaging them, would we be losing AMC, OLTL and now more than likely GH? More importantly, would Disney shareholders have had to endure the company spending millions to move AMC out West, only for it to be cancelled shortly thereafter? I may be a silly soap blogger, but I know bad business when I see it; after all I've watched enough corporate takeover stories on ABC Daytime.

I realize the decision to bet the farm (and the lineup) on Katie Couric comes from way above Frons' head, but if the soaps he sits in stewardship of had been in better shape, would millions of generational ABC Daytime viewers now be faced with basically losing them all at the same time? Or does Sweeney simply not give a damn about the consumers who watch ABC soaps daily?

 I wonder how Sweeney feels about one of her key employees creating the beginnings of a PR Tsunami, by embarking on a sound bite tour, proclaiming why his soaps were in better shape than the ones P&G and CBS were dumping a few years back? Was that really all that smart, considering ABC was reportedly already planning to rebrand SOAPnet and phase out their daytime dramas?

 ABC cancelling beloved, long-running soap operas was going to be a hard pill for fans to swallow no matter what, but would soap viewers be as pissed if we hadn't been lied to over and over again about the network's "commitment" to this soap or that one? I mean, seriously, who advised Frons to tell the press that GH would be around for a "long, long time", merely a month before the rumblings of Katie Couric killing the iconic soap started? Something is greatly amiss atop ABC Daytime and I'm sorry Ms. Sweeney, but it's about much more than eyeballs.