Dr. Donald G. Boudreau is an internationally recognized expert in the field of economic statecraft and is the author of several books, including American Business and Daytime Dramas (Smashwords, 2012). He and his wife, Zoraida de (together with their two dogs and two parakeets) are happily building their new home in a small coastal fishing town that serves as a gateway to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. We at LTAS have been big “Dr. Don” fans for a while now. And not just because of his wonderful book, but because he is an exemplary colleague in general, supporter of soaps, and friend to all of us here. He knows a great deal about why things happen the way they do in the soap-advertiser relationship, and we wanted him to share some of that knowledge with you. This is just part one of our interview with him! There’s more to come!
- How did your book, “American Business and Daytime Dramas,” come about?
- Can you explain, from your position as a soap fan and expert on big business/daytime drama explain the firings, or upcoming departures, of Brian Frons, Anne Sweeney, and Bob Iger?
- Can you talk a little about the painful rollercoaster ABC/Disney took viewers on with the aforementioned company and its versions of AMC and OLTL?
- Can you explain what it would entail from a business point of view for the completion of the process of restoring AMC &OLTL on TV as they were?
- If you combine SOAPnet, soap star weekends, soap fan cruises, and other soap tie-ins, wasn’t ABC/Disney making millions of their daytime lineup?
Dr. Boudreau, first of all I would like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview and for always being a friend to the soaps—and LTAS.
LTAS: How did your book, “American Business and Daytime Dramas,” come about?
DB: For 20 years, my wife and I were avid watchers of “One Life To Live” (OLTL). It was a sacred entertainment ritual that became as much a beloved part of our daily lives as the ever-talented ensemble cast of “One Life” (and, all that incredible Cartini magic) were treasured guests in our family home. Of course when I say Cartini, I am referring to the noted team of executive producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati most currently affiliated with General Hospital. I wrote the book American Business And Daytime Dramas (Smashwords, 2012, available at Smashwords and Amazon.com) largely out of anger and grave disappointment at the erroneous decision announced by ABC/Disney Television on Thursday, April 14,2011, regarding its cancelling of All My Children (AMC) and “One Life To Live,” two of noted writer Agnes Nixon’s longstanding soap opera masterpieces. My reasons for writing such were not altogether selfish in that, moreover, I believed that the cancellation decision was also a horrific business decision on business case economic and market share grounds and that, historically it would become upon serious reflection viewed as such by business schools worldwide, ultimately becoming akin to other historically notorious business decisions such as New Coke. I believed then and I believe now that ABC/Disney, and the faulty decision circle embraced there by the then senior management trio of Bob Iger, Anne Sweeney and Brian Frons would eventually come to long rue the day upon realizing they had seriously miscalculated in making such decision. Noted national and international business schools (not to mention the industry‐wide knowledge thereof) will long observe and study the many egregious business failings of these ABC/Disney executives and the conditions and factors that led them to so miscalculating to the detriment of the loyal ABC television viewing public, and moreover, to the many ABC/Disney share holders that have been damaged as a result. I would be remiss if I failed to note too the many dependent families affected, again adversely via the cancellations, including but not limited to, the casts and crews of AMC and OLTL and the millions of loyal fans of these two shows nationwide. And, let us not forget, the two shows many corporate sponsors who depended on the buying power patronage of those fan bases.
LTAS: In your book you mention that people at ABC were responsible for the cancellation of AMC and OLTL. Fans swore their heads would roll, and they either have or are slated to roll in the future. Can you explain, from your position as a soap fan and expert on big business/daytime drama explain the firings, or upcoming departures, of Brian Frons, Anne Sweeney, and Bob Iger?
DB: The great lady, Cheneise Carey‐Beebe, co‐host of Let’s Talk About Soaps fame, known too for her wonderful YouTube videos defending AMC and OLTL against ABC Disney, was prescient in her prediction that as a first imperative corrective measure, there needed to be a housecleaning writ large of the parties that brought about this train wreck decision of cancelling these shows. That the individuals responsible for substituting them with a chain of overwhelmingly failed reality and talk shows, so‐called replacement shows be called to task. It is these shows which, on the whole, have failed miserably in recapturing the lost fan bases that were devastated by losing AMC and OLTL. It is extremely difficult to reverse the effects of highly dysfunctional business decisions in large, complex organizations, powerfully witness the almost Zombie‐like fealty to continuing to produce low-rated talk shows, akin to cranking out mediocre, lowest common denominator entertainment happy meals fare, and surely not filet mignon, always seeking to find the next, ever elusive cash cow show a la the Oprah show. Powerfully witness the notoriously expensive, ABC/Disney’s Big Fail of a television talk show that was named Katie. Remember it? Frankly, we know who the responsible culprits are who created that daytime show fiasco, hint: ask Cheneise Carey‐Beebe, why she’ll tell you who in a nanosecond. The relentless follies of ABC Disney television’s daytime programming decisions are continuing unabated as ABC/Disney and Prospect Park remain mired in seemingly protracted litigation as the ever valuable franchises of AMC and OLTL continue languishing, gathering dust, shamelessly it is to be lamented. So much for the ABC/Disney Television network’s creative programming decisions and its loyalty to the millions of many decades long fans nationwide of AMC and OLTL, still waiting, once again, to be tapped into viewing their beloved shows if only they would return with a view to rebuilding integrity and respect. Imagine if only but for a moment, ABC/Disney saying publicly, “We heard you ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life To Live’ fans and we’re sorry…we sincerely apologize, we blew it, yes, but ‐we’re coming back and bigger and better than ever,” in a nationwide televised and social media blitz campaign, aimed at successfully resurrecting these two shows and with new international marketing efforts acknowledging these two ABC Disney properties as the valuable (and profitable) franchises that the network and the public earnestly knows them to be. ABC/ Disney would, accordingly, take the reins…
LTAS: In recent column, a frequent LTAS contributor, my esteemed colleague Eternelendrea wrote a blog post “With a Hidden Dagger, Network Fakes a Smile.” He was especially referring to ABC/Disney’s leading of fans down a primrose path using Prospect Park. Can you talk a little about the painful rollercoaster ABC/Disney took viewers on with the aforementioned company and its versions of AMC and OLTL?
DB: Observers have remarked on the troubling relationship between Prospect Park and ABC Television and there are many theories regarding such. Some people believe that ABC intentionally conspired with Prospect Park to bring the shows back as a means of defusing fans ire at ABC/Disney over the cancellations. Some observers note that one of the two Prospect Park partners had formerly served as a senior Disney executive. Other observers note that the very name Prospect Park has meaning linked to ABC as further evidence of the existence of collusion, a conspiracy if you will, between the two companies. But many of these conspiracy theories fall apart it seems to me when you look at the current day reality. Both firms are now mired in expensive and protracted litigation with a view to resolving various claims and counterclaims that have been made by the parties. Meanwhile, it is the fans who continue suffering, once again. It is extremely difficult to believe that sufficient due diligence was made by ABC/Disney in protecting its shareholders property interests relative to these two soap opera daytime television franchises. Other more viable prospective agents for producing these shows may or may not have been given due consideration at the time by the powers that then prevailed in ABC/Disney Television. The obviously high risk business decision involved, in taking the shows from television to the Internet, was also so novel for this type of a business arrangement that ABC/Disney may one day if not sooner lament that it do not take on a larger equity role in developing this new medium of entertainment given that with each passing year, more viewers are moving onto other types of viewing platforms, mobile devices in real time, on demand applications and uses, regardless of geography, that which is becoming so omnipresent in our world today. But the Prospect Park experiment was by no means flawless, of course, and its shortcomings and pitfalls soon became evident. Longtime fans, too, are extremely loyal to the shows, their franchises, and to the integrity of their story lines and characters in a serious manner not to be cavalierly discounted or ignored by its producers, without grave consequences being brought to bear, as was the case with Prospect Park surely to a degree it seems to me (as any reasonable reviewing of the many soap journo stories, of that day appertaining, powerfully demonstrate). At the end of the day, the fans are the ultimate customers of these shows and it is they, the fans and their families and extended families and friends, who decide to reciprocate loyalty by either buying the corporate sponsors’ products, or otherwise choosing not to. One ignores such, arrogantly or ignorantly, at one’s peril it seems to me.
LTAS: Ultimately, we at LTAS feel, the soaps were meant for television, not the Internet. And now it seems that LTAS co-host Cheneise Carey’s theory that before the soaps come back, we need a clean house. And you have said that the soaps must come back with the same cast, writers, directors, crew, back in New York City, etc. General Hospital (GH) is now back in its 3:00 p.m. time slot, indicating this process has begun. Can you explain what it would entail from a business point of view for the completion of that process?
DB: As in our own household, we too like “Let’s Talk About Soaps,” are favorably inclined given our long, historically favorable experience, to viewing our show (OLTL) on television rather than on the Internet. Having said that, I have in the past stated my desire (like so many countless others) that the shows need to be returned intact, as much as possible, preserving their character and their integrity.Yes, I am a firm believer in Cartini magic, too, based on solid evidence and their phenom track record with “One Life” and now surely too, with GH. I fully believe the noted soap journalist, Daytime Confidential’s acutely perceptive blogger and podcaster, and ever ingeniously comedic Jamey Giddens, when he observes that OLTL, in the five years prior to it leaving the ABC airwaves, produced some of the finest soap opera writing ever witnessed in the genre, bar none. This is no small treasure—not that ABC Disney, in its blind spot, ever fully appreciated the value of such a jewel that Cartini’s prowess manifested with “One Life” on multiple fronts. But, I have never yet deluded myself into believing that such a resurrection process of the two shows, intact in New York City is currently underway, except perhaps in pleasurable dreams; fantasies, that I might on occasion allow myself the pleasure of having. ABC/Disney surely has all the requisite resources for successfully carrying out such a mission yet needs the corporate will necessary for embarking on such an ambitious venture. Some people suggest that the cancelled soaps, as such, will never return. But I think it would be folly for fans of AMC and OLTL to lose hope. America is a very nostalgic country and American entertainment is heavily prone toward following suit in repeatedly bringing such to the marketplace. One need look no further than the current list of Broadway shows as powerful, and exceedingly profitable evidence of such. ABC/Disney has a long and fruitful history of producing viable, profitable soap opera in New York City for many good reasons, including the high geographical concentration of talented cast and crews and other talented support staff that, for many past decades, have made it good commerce and fruitful enterprise for many; long having been in ABC/Disney’s shareholders best interests, too.
DB: As the acutely perceptive soaps activist, John Larsen of New York City (also known as Midnighter on Facebook and Twitter) powerfully observes, ABC/Disney historically made substantial profits from its daytime soap opera lineup; funds that long supported substantial parts of the network’s other operations, including many of its historical blockbuster, prime time successes. The two valuable franchises, AMC and OLTL possessed, and still possess, multiple possible profit centers for ABC/Disney, including among other things, international syndication rights. Loyalty, important loyalty exists for a network in various forms of purchasing power; the patronage extended to goods and services advertised, by millions of fans too, to the network at large, and to Disney as a company, bringing multiple spillover economic benefits that are now, intentionally and unwittingly shortsightedly it can be argued, being foregone thanks to its myopic decision making to the detriment of the economic growth of both ABC and Disney corporate enterprises. But that surely does not have to remain the case and appropriate corrective measures can be taken. But that takes sound business leadership and creative thinking.
Stay tuned, Soap/LTAS Fans for the continuing story of Dr. Donald Boudreau on soaps! Remember when they used to say that on some of our soaps–the part about the continuing story? And as ALWAYS, Stay Soapy! Subscribe (upper right corner) and comment away!