Shawn Brady, 45, has been a central figure in the fight to bring back All My Children and One Life to Live after their cancellation by ABC. In 2011 he joined with Maree Blackston, Dana Meyer, Candace Straight, Cheryl Hutton, Kimmie Watson and Jennifer Snelling, forming the group Soap Fans United (SFU). The group has grown from several hundred members on Facebook (link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SFU2011/) 7,077 and counting!
SFU was instrumental in hosting four rallies in the Save Our Soaps movement, from the two ABC Upfront Rallies in NYC, to OLTL’s 43rd Anniversary Rally and the final AMC & OLTL Prospect Park welcome back rally. The group has garnered national and international publicity in the process of fighting for our soaps.
Below he talks about the creation of SFU and where we are today in the battle to save soaps, among other topics.
LTAS: Hi, Shawn. First I want to thank you for doing this interview. Next, How long have you been a soap fan, Shawn, and how did you get interested in them?
SB: I have been a soap fan before I was aware I was a soap fan! My first show that I got hooked on a child was the prime time TV show Dallas. I will never forget how fast my heart pounded when I was about to find out “Who Shot JR!” In fact the first cover of Soap Opera Digest I ever bought had Dallas on its cover.
My first experience with daytime soaps was thanks to my Biology teacher Mr. Zingaro (aka Mr. Z). I was babysitting his son, and he had episodes of AMC on videotape. We lived overseas in Turkey, so we often got VHS tapes form the states. My first memories of AMC are in the Martin kitchen with Tad, Joe and Ruth.
When I moved back to the states, I then discovered One Life to Live, General Hospital, Loving, and Days of our Lives. These were of course during the golden days of the mid 80s!
Whether I was finishing high school, away from home at college, or starting a new job in a strange city, my soaps were always with me! I knew how to use a timer on a VCR while people still tried to figure out the blinking 12:00 sign, an was one of the first adopters of the DVR to record and watch all my soaps! At one time or another I ended up watching all soaps from As The World Turns to Santa Barbara.
LTAS: Can you tell readers about the creation of Soap Fans United?
SB: Soap Fans United is a group that formed organically following the cancellation of AMC & OLTL. Ironically, I can thank a medium I seldom use (Twitter) for my involvement with the soap movement. It’s true what they say about Twitter; it’s a strong medium that can bring people together for a cause. I got online right after hearing about the cancellation of our beloved soaps and met a wonderful group of people. We all got involved in planning an ABC Upfront Rally and worked together on our first press release. The next thing I knew, I was flying to New York to help organize and execute it on the ground and SFU was literally (and figuratively) born!
LTAS:David Arwood, an LTAS blog writer, in a blog post suggested that the return of soaps to NYC would bring 40,000 new jobs and $4 billion in revenue to the NYC economy? Do you agree, and if so can you talk a little about this—how soaps are not simply entertainment, but a boon to the economy?
SB: I do not have specific data on the economic impact of bringing soaps back to production in NYC; however, producing daily serialized, scripted drama most certainly brings more permanent jobs because unlike primetime shows, soaps tape year-round.
In addition to the soap writers, cast and crew, there are also ancillary services and businesses that crop up in the area around a studio to meet the needs of the hundreds of folks involved in producing a daily soap year-round. Bringing permanent, year-round jobs to an area has the effect of creating some stability for businesses and it can lead to entire neighborhoods being revitalized. Contrast that environment with what happens in primetime where often a pilot is shot, and it is not picked up, or even if it is, you get an order for 13 or 22 weeks. Businesses, particularly small businesses, are not going to want to spend the money to expand into an area to serve needs that are fleeting, but soaps provided jobs and stability for all sorts of ancillary businesses in NYC for decades.
LTAS: In Kim Zimmer’s (Reva, Guiding Light) book, “I’m Just Saying,” she exposes the Proctor and Gamble sponsors as “the original soap killers,” as my colleague Tessa Kendall McKenzie calls them. Can you suggest some ways that fans can show sponsors that if they support the soaps, we will support them, and that if they don’t they will get boycotted, as ABC/Disney did.
SB: The difference between P&G and the rest of the sponsors is that P&G actually created the soap opera industry to help sell their own soaps! They created the shows, sold them to all the networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) and sponsored them at the same time. The reason Zimmer refers to P&G as “the original soap killers” is because P&G got tired of producing their own soaps and wanted out of the business. That is why there wasn’t much resistance to the cancellation of Another World at CBS and later As The World Turns, and Guiding Light at CBS.
In today’s economy you have multiple sponsors sponsoring multiple shows, whether it’s one of our beloved soaps or The View, so targeting sponsors is more difficult, but at the end of the day, sponsors still want to know that their product is being viewed favorably and their ad dollars are being spent wisely.(Hoover pulling out of ABC Daytime was a great publicity stunt for which they deserve our thanks and support. That goes for any other sponsor who publicly calls out ABC or any other network for cancelling a soap!)
At our Upfront Rallies where advertisers meet with ABC executives and talent, SFU prepared and distributed detailed flyers pointing out ratings research we gathered which demonstrated how many ad impressions advertisers were losing since the AMC & OLTL cancellations. We were not appealing to advertisers’ “emotions,” we were appealing to what they were interested in which is their bottom line.
One of the best way fans can show their support for their soaps is to support or target the network that airs them (depending on the approach). For example, while SFU is not a group based on boycotting ABC like Fans United Against ABC (FUABC), many of our members (including one of our founders) are ABC boycotters except for GH. Besides rallying and getting press to show advertisers how wrong ABC was in cancelling those shows, I cannot deny the effect the boycotting of ABC has had on its ratings, which are still problematic to this day!
The boycotting of ABC has a trickle down effect from ABC Daytime to local news to ABC Primetime, late local news and even late night shows. If you do not have loyal ABC daytime watchers, then you will not see the network promos for new shows; if you tune out of your local ABC news, the network affiliates become unhappy with the network for declining revenue; by not seeing the promos for new shows, you will not watch ABC primetime; the domino effects continue. It’s amazing to me how ABC TV Entertainment President Paul Lee still hasn’t figured it out yet!
Now on the flip side, you can still support GH by letting ABC and your local ABC affiliate know if they resurrect AMC & OLTL their ratings will increase all across the board. It’s a win-win situation!
Re: the soaps on CBS & NBC, again, write the network and local stations to let them know why you love watching their soaps and how loyal you are to their entire lineup!
LTAS: We at LTAS have spoken with a DIRECTV representative who said that if fans show the interest, they would consider creating a soap channel. Could fans redirect the coupon campaign to show DIRECTV that things like the Facebook page dedicated to garnering support for a cable channel to pick up our soaps is serious business? What are some other ways fans could bring to fruition the creation of a new soap channel by DIRECTV? Can you also describe the coupon campaign and how you came up with it for those who are not familiar with it?
SB: DirecTV was one of the last bastions for SOAP Net. DirecTV promised soap fans early on they would not pull the plug on SOAP Net until they were absolutely forced to by Disney, and they were good to their word and maintained SOAP Net until Disney stopped the network feed. DirecTV was attuned to what soap fans wanted.
The need is still great for an all-soap network. I look around the dial at all the various niche networks, and I can’t imagine a serialized drama network would not be at least equally as viable as some of the other networks on the cable and satellite dial.
I would also like to take a moment to salute what TV Guide Network is doing in terms of re-broadcasting soaps. I think Y&R and B&B do well for them. Of course, CBS owns TVGN, so it is probably easier for them to make a deal with TVGN to rebroadcast their soaps.
With regard to the Coupon Campaign, Soap Fans United was one of many groups involved in promoting that campaign. It was not “our” campaign. The Coupon Campaign gained a lot of traction and received national attention including Globe Magazine and Soaps In Depth and a number of other articles in local newspapers, blogs, etc.. While we didn’t get a new soap channel from the Coupon Campaign, what we may have achieved from the publicity surrounding the Coupon Campaign was a longer life-line for SOAP Net than Disney otherwise planned. While some soap fans lost SOAP Net early on as Disney intended, a great many soap fans throughout the country had SOAP Net nearly 18 months longer than Disney’s original announcement back in 2010 about sun-setting SOAP Net. Many in SFU only lost SOAP Net as of December 31, 2013.
The Coupon Campaign data is several years older now, and to be honest, I am not even sure who has the data, so I don’t know if that information could be parlayed into anything that would provide leverage to get a soap channel; however, I think it is useful for soap fans to continue to contact their cable and satellite providers and let them know there is a need and a desire for a soap channel.
I love what Retro TV is doing bringing back the soap, The Doctors. It is smart to let them know we are interested in more soaps. I think Retro TV would be smart to target soap fans to help them expand into more markets, much like Disney originally used soap fans to get market share for SOAP Net. When SOAP Net started, Disney asked us to contact our local cable & satellite providers and ask them to carry the channel. Retro TV could do the same type of thing, if they are willing to explore vintage soaps that would appeal to soap fans.
LTAS: The chairman of the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recently said the Daytime Emmys would be back on television next year. From a PR point of view, what would this mean for the network that aired them, in terms of ratings, popularity, etc.?
SB: I feel the credibility and brand of the Daytime Emmys were severely damaged when they outsourced it and streamed it themselves. If a real broadcast network like (ABC, CBS, and NBC) were to air the show in primetime again, it would go a long way towards repairing the damage done to the entire Daytime Emmy franchise. It would be an excellent opportunity to reinvigorate the drama and utilize prime time actors who got their start in daytime like Nathan Fillion (Castle) and Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds)!
While rumors are the 2015 Daytime Emmy show will air on TVGN (TV Guide Network; also owned by CBS) , the channel is in limited distribution and not available in high-def (HD). However, I have heard the ratings for TVGN have surged with the addition of airing B&B and Y&R on a nightly basis in primetime. I feel the Daytime Emmy should get the same type of promotion and recognition as its nighttime peers!
LTAS: Many American soap operas are wildly popular overseas—when the Bold and the Beautiful cast visits Italy, riots practically break out! Can we get the international audience to unite with us to get our soaps back, and if so, how can we do it? Can you suggest some ways our international soap fan brothers and sisters could get involved in the Save Our Soaps movement?
SB: Did you know that B&B is the most watched show in the world, let alone soap opera?! Brad Bell is able to take advantage of his show’s status by doing multiple location shoots from around the world! I definitely think we can get the international audience to work with us to help Save Our Soaps! One way is to get an international TV studio to help co-produce our beloved AMC & OLTL and secure an international distribution deal. But in order to push for that we need to make sure ABC gets the rights back to both shows.
I also believe outreach on social media and groups such as Soap Fans United play a role in encouraging international soap fans to join together with us to promote soaps worldwide.
LTAS: When our soaps are back, what could you suggest fans could do not to get complacent and make sure they are never, ever taken from us again?
SB: First, let’s support the remaining four soaps we have on the air right now. If you are an AMC fan, give DAYS a shot. If you are an OLTL fan, check out B&B. or vice versa! Personally, I watch all four. When the shows come back write in and show your support to the network/studio that brings it back, write to your local affiliate who airs them, and fill out a contact form on the advertisers’ web site letting them know you appreciate their support for our soaps.
LTAS: Many soap fans, including all of us at LTAS, but many others as well, look to you for guidance in this continuing struggle to save our soaps. If you could suggest one or two main things that fans can do now to get our soaps back, what would they be? Would you like to say anything to all the to the angry, heartbroken soap fans out there who want their soaps back?
SB: First, let’s learn to be patient. The rights for AMC & OLTL are in limbo until Prospect Park and ABC sort out their lawsuit and the Prospect Park Bankruptcy.
Secondly, and maybe most importantly, keep the buzz about our soaps going all the time. Celebrate AMC & OLTL. Comment on any mainstream article that references soaps, and mention how much you miss AMC & OLTL. Vote for AMC & OLTL in various Internet polls about “favorite shows” or “most missed shows.” In general mention AMC & OLTL every chance you get on social media and on mainstream blogs.
I also suggest tweeting, face booking or emailing your local ABC affiliate periodically to let them know we still miss AMC & OLTL. It never hurts to remind them, particularly now as The View appears poised to implode and The Chew isn’t doing much to write home about. On the heels of Katie’s abysmal failure, many of the ABC affiliates are reassessing their Daytime programming needs. They are faced with choosing among a variety of syndicated talk shows where one is just as bad as the next. Now is a great time to remind our ABC affiliates that they once had higher ratings and better programming options in Daytime when AMC, OLTL and GH formed the core of their Daytime line-up.
Until then, support GH, DAYS, B&B, and Y&R. Don’t take any of the remaining soaps for granted!
For those who are disillusioned or disheartened, I say “don’t ever give up!” We collectively had the power to bring the soaps back once, and we shall do so again!
Shawn would like to thank the following people for their parts in saving our soaps: Flo DiBona, Cole Bell, Denise McMann, Sharon Solomon, Tina Gray, Tammy Kreiss, Rose Gencarelli, Susan Hoffman, Bruce Marchesani, Zach Fisher, Johanna Marlin, Fred Titcomb, Stephen Parker, Liz Arnold, Robynn Wildman Cote, Judy Wernsing, Gina Zarola, Eddie Hicinbothem, Donna L. Harper (Disney Save Our Soaps – raised $5K for AMC & OLTL Hollywood Reporter ad), Kymberleigh McLaughlin, John Larsen (Save AMC & OLTL), SFU rally co-organizer MarcAnthony Ouckama (+ partner Brian), Globe Editor Jeff Rodack, OLTL’s Cat Hickland, OLTL / GH’s Ilene Kristen, ATWT’s Colleen Zenk & AMC’s Jordi Vilasuso, Loretta Lamar, Justice and Vitina Varone, new SOS rally-er Karim el-Masri for his tireless dedication to save #AMC and #OLTL, and the countless others who support our soaps endlessly
Thank you, again, Shawn for doing this interview. And thanks all for reading. Please remember to comment, subscribe (in the upper-right corner), and stay soapy!