On Friday, November 8, Soap Opera Network reported that SOAPnet, now the old way to watch soaps, would cease operation on December 31, 2013 at 11:59:59 ET. In a piece by the Los Angeles Times, Ben Pyne, president of global distribution for Disney Media Networks, said, ”SOAPnet had a great run.” He added, “It served an audience of super-soap fans. And when given the opportunity, all of our affiliates kept the channel up and running.” The affiliates Pyne refers are the cable and satellite operators including DirecTV and Cablevision, et al that have kept the cable network on their channel listings whether a new deal with Disney and the carriers was signed or not.
The ABC Cable Networks Group, a division of Disney/ABC Television Group, has informed cable and satellite operators across the United States that they will cease operating SOAPnet, the cable network devoted to airing same day episodes of “Days of our Lives” and “General Hospital” at night along with off-network airing rights to such shows as “Veronica Mars,” “Beverly Hills,90210,” “Gilmore Girls,” “One Tree Hill” and more. The network, which launched January 20, 2000, is expected to go dark effective on December 31, 2013 at 11:59:59 PM EST. Despite SOAPnet’s reported replacement, Disney Junior, already operating since 2012 on several providers across the country, the kids friendly network will officially replace the women’s network at 12:00:00 AM EST on January 1, 2014.
Just days before its upfront presentation to Madison Avenue on Tuesday, May 14, the Disney/ABC Television Group has announced that viewers of ABC programming in New York City and Philadelphia (via their WABC and WPVI affiliates) will be able to watch ABC’s Live 24/7 linear broadcast network programming online for the first time ever through the new WATCH ABC application. Viewers can access WATCH ABC online at ABC.com or by downloading the WATCH ABC app on their iOS or Kindle Fire devices. The WATCH ABC app will be available on Samsung Galaxy devices this summer.
“WATCH ABC is a game-changing innovation for the broadcast television industry. We’re extremely excited to offer this open access preview to our WABC and WPVI viewers in New York and Philadelphia. This announcement represents a defining moment in technology and distribution, as well as for our advertising and affiliate partners, as we ensure that our high-quality content is available to viewers on a variety of devices,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group. “Our mission with this special preview is to gather key learnings about the service and the consumers who utilize it in order for our WATCH products to be the gold standard experience of authenticated multiplatform viewing.”
WATCH ABC allows viewers of such programs as “General Hospital” to view their shows in real-time, in sync with the WABC/WPVI broadcast airings of ABC programming.
While CBS has the most nominations amongst all television networks, the Disney/ABC Television Group is the most honored programming group with nominations for the ABC Television Network, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Syndicated programming, and more. The television arm of The Walt Disney Company highlights their nominations below:
May sweeps are a month away, but it looks like the upcoming onscreen drama won’t be able to hold a candle to the real-life drama brewing between Prospect Park’s “One Life to Live” and ABC’s “General Hospital.”
After Prospect Park’s plans to reboot both “OLTL” and “All My Children” for the web fell through in November 2011, the company was approached by ABC who was interested in transplanting the characters of Todd Manning, Starr Manning and John McBain to Port Charles as portrayed by their originators Roger Howarth, Kristen Alderson and Michael Easton. The understanding at the time between ABC and Prospect Park was that the characters would be utilized on “GH” until plans to reboot “OLTL” came back into play as Prospect Park didn’t want to hold the Llanview 3 from working. Since their debuts in Port Charles in early 2012, the characters have tested very high with both viewers and focus groups and have played a large role in the overall audience growth for “GH” compared to its 2011 performance in the Nielsen ratings. Unfortunately, things behind the scenes weren’t looking as good.
Despite Michael Easton‘s announcement early this morning, where he stated that after February 8th he would be exiting “General Hospital,” along with Roger Howarth and Kristen Alderson, due to “some ongoing legal this and that,” an ABC spokesperson tells Soap Opera Network that all three will remain an essential part of the “GH” canvas for the foreseeable future as the three are under contract with the network and not Prospect Park.
“‘General Hospital’ is excited about Michael Easton, Kristen Alderson and Roger Howarth staying on the show and we are exploring ways to allow that to happen,” read a statement from ABC, which did not provide further input on how the series would accomplish just that. Previously, the network stated, “There are on-going collaborative conversations,” in response to word that Prospect Park wanted to return the characters of Starr Manning (Alderson), Todd Manning (Howarth) and John McBain (Easton) to Llanview after formerly announcing it’s decision to re-launch “One Life to Live” later this spring. The production company licensed the rights to “OLTL’s” characters in July 2011 in a long-term distribution agreement between it and Disney/ABC Domestic Television, part of the Disney/ABC Television Group.
UPDATE 8:09 AM ET: In an update to his original Facebook message, Easton says that he wasn’t trying to “upset anybody” with his previously mentioned words, which had sparked outrage across social media networks from fans of the actor and character, who were upset to hear of his pending exit from “General Hospital.” The actor also says that the matter between Prospect Park and ABC may “take some time and some very bright people to resolve.”
Michael Easton Facebook Message Update
THANK YOU (PART TWO)
Didn’t mean to upset anybody, was just trying to address the birthday stuff. Honestly not sure what the future holds but I think it’s going to take some time and some very bright people to resolve it. Thank you again for all your kindness and support…
PREVIOUS: 2:19 AM ET: As previously reported, Michael Easton along with Kristen Alderson and Roger Howarth are currently at the center of a legal dispute between Prospect Park and Disney/ABC Domestic Television, part of the Disney/ABC Telvision Group, over who has the right to use the characters of John McBain (Easton), Starr Manning (Alderson) and Todd Manning (Howarth)). In one corner you have Prospect Park and “One Life to Live” and in the other you have ABC and “General Hospital.” Unfortunately for the fans, no one is “winning.” According to one of the affected actors, after Friday, February 8, they “cannot be at ‘General Hospital’” any longer.
via Press Release
ABC FAMILY CONTINUES ITS ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING MOMENTUM
WITH NEW PILOT PRODUCTION
Greenlit Pilots Include “The Fosters,” to Be Executive-Produced by Jennifer Lopez,
And “Socio,” to Be Executive-Produced by Gavin Polone
BURBANK, CA (August 23, 2012) – ABC Family, the millennial-skewing network, has greenlit two new drama pilots, “The Fosters” (working title), from executive producer Jennifer Lopez, and “Socio,” from executive producer Gavin Polone. Summer to date, ABC Family’s current crop of original series have made ABC Family cable TV’s #1 network in Prime in Women 18-34, and the #2 cable TV network in Females 12-34 and Female Teens.
“ABC Family continues to find and develop original programming that adds new dimension and depth to the storytelling we offer,” said Kate Juergens, executive vice president, Original Programming and Development, ABC Family. “Both these shows are headed by wonderful executive producers who know the millennial space well and know how to connect with audiences.”
From executive producer Jennifer Lopez (“American Idol,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “The Back-Up Plan”) and created by Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige, who will also serve as writers and executive producers, “The Fosters” is a one-hour drama about a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological kids being raised by two moms. Simon Fields and Greg Gugliotta will also serve as executive producers. The series is produced by Nuyorican Productions, Inc., and Prodco, Inc.
“Socio” is a one-hour drama centered on a charismatic 16-year-old alleged sociopath who recently reconnected with his two female best friends from childhood, and who becomes the prime suspect when a fellow student is murdered. The series will be executive-produced by Gavin Polone (“Gilmore Girls,” “Zombieland,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “My Boys,” “Jane by Design). Adam Milch (Greek), who wrote the pilot, will also serve as co-executive producer. The series is produced by Prodco, Inc.
Part of the Disney/ABC Television Group, ABC Family is distributed in over 97 million homes. ABC Family features programming reflecting today’s families, entertaining and connecting with adults through relatable programming about today’s relationships – told with a mix of diversity, passion, humor and heart. ABC Family’s programming is a combination of network-defining original series and original movies, quality acquired series and blockbuster theatricals. Emmy® Award-winning ABCFamily.com provides a variety of interactive entertainment and community features, from rich, fan-centric programming – including blogs, viewing parties, webisodes, full episodes of the network’s hit programming, along with sneak peek exclusive previews and behind-the-scenes clips. ABC Family is also the destination for annual Holiday events with “13 Nights of Halloween” and “25 Days of Christmas.” ABC Family. A New Kind of Family.
via Press Release
ABC MAKES STRATEGIC SHIFT IN LATE-NIGHT STRATEGY
“Jimmy Kimmel Live” Moves to 11:35 p.m. on January 8 to Capitalize on
Ratings Momentum, Higher Ad Demand and Greater Revenue Upside
Audiences Can Begin and End Their Day with ABC News as “Nightline” Shifts to 12:35 a.m. on
January 9 and Adds a Primetime Hour Every Friday Night at 9:00 p.m., Beginning March 1
Tuesday, August 21, 2012 . . . Capitalizing on ratings momentum, advertising demand and increased revenue potential for entertainment programming in the 11:35 p.m. time slot, ABC today announced a strategic shift in its late-night strategy to better position the network for increased ratings and financial performance over the long term. On Tuesday, January 8, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the only late-night broadcast talk show to increase in Total Viewers this past season, will move to 11:35 p.m., putting the show in head-to-head competition with “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Late Show with David Letterman.” Proven late-night performer “Nightline” will shift to 12:35 a.m., allowing viewers to begin and end their broadcast day with news. The moves are timed to take advantage of the built-in promotional platforms provided by ABC’s “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and ESPN’s Bowl Championship Series, which culminates with the National Championship Game on Monday, January 7. In addition, “Nightline” will expand its programming commitments with a move into primetime, Friday nights at 9:00 p.m. beginning March 1. Given its success and growth, the ABC News series “What Would You Do?” will also find a new home on the schedule.
In making the announcement, Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, said: “Given the passionate fan base ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ has built over the past decade and the show’s ratings and creative momentum this season, the time is right to make this move. There is the potential for far greater upside over the long term with this shift, given increased advertiser demand for competitive entertainment programming in the time slot.” She continued: “This shift also allows us to bookend our programming day with compelling news content. And the addition of a new primetime hour of ‘Nightline’ on Friday nights will ensure that the program has even more opportunities to continue its incredible, award-winning reporting.”
For the complete 2011-12 Broadcast TV Season, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” grew its overall audience over the prior season by 3% in Total Viewers to generate its most-watched season in 5 years. In addition, “JKL” was the only late-night broadcast talk show to grow year over year in Total Viewers.
And the show’s ratings momentum has continued. During the recent July sweep, ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” surged year to year by 15% in Total Viewers to deliver its most-watched July sweep ever. Notably, “JKL” grew its overall audience year over year in all 4 sweeps of the 2011-12 Season. The program was also up over the year-ago sweep by 5% in Adults 18-49 to score its best July in 4 years – since 2008. In addition, “JKL” stood as the only broadcast talk show in late-night to achieve yearly growth in either Total Viewers or Adults 18-49. And on Sunday, September 23, Jimmy Kimmel will take another turn in the spotlight when he hosts the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
The shift for “Nightline” in late-night and the addition of a new “Nightline” broadcast hour in primetime, timed to utilize the Academy Awards as a promotional platform, continues the momentum of ABC News, which has enjoyed a banner year of success and growth. From a resurgent “Good Morning America,” to the groundbreaking, innovative digital deal with Yahoo that immediately catapulted ABC News to the top of digital news delivery, to the recently completed joint venture with Univision for a 24-hour culturally relevant lifestyle and news channel for U.S. Hispanics — the fastest growing demographic in the nation — ABC News has gone from strength to strength and success to success.
In commenting on the announcement, Ben Sherwood, president, ABC News, said: “‘Nightline’ has proven its ability to grow over three decades on the air, with the show currently enjoying some of its highest ratings and best editorial work ever. The ‘Nightline’ team will now bring its excellent journalism to new time periods, and we especially welcome the chance to produce an hour every Friday in primetime, where new audiences will be introduced to the program’s signature storytelling, interviewing and investigations. I’m confident ‘Nightline’ and its dynamic anchors, correspondents and staff will enjoy many successes for years to come.”
Paul Lee, president, ABC Entertainment Group, added: “The time is right for Kimmel to make this move…he’s ready, and so is his audience. For the past 10 years we’ve built the foundation for this shift, and we’ll be celebrating the New Year as only Jimmy Kimmel can… with that unique brand of humor and universal wit that has endeared him to fans of all ages.”
The Disney/ABC Television Group is composed of The Walt Disney Company’s (NYSE: DIS) global entertainment and news television properties, owned television stations, and radio and publishing businesses. This includes ABC Entertainment Group, ABC News, ABC Owned Television Stations Group, Disney Channels Worldwide, Radio Disney, ABC Family and SOAPnet, as well as Disney-ABC Domestic Television and Disney Media Distribution. Hyperion Publishing and the Company’s equity interest in A&E Networks round out the Group’s portfolio of media businesses.
On Saturday, July 23, 2011, “General Hospital” held its annual fan club weekend event at the Sportmen’s Lodge Event Center. Incidentally, in the year that followed many were left wondering if the 2012 event would ever come to be amidst all the drama and rumors surrounding the cancellation, reincarnation (through the Disney/ABC Television Group/Prospect Park Productions deal that wasn’t) and ultimate demise of “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” and the possible effect it would have on “GH” itself. On July 21, 2012, “GH” did indeed holds its annual fan event – again at the Sportsmen’s Lodge Event Center – with a renewed focus and much hope for the future.
“General Hospital” cast members Steve Burton (Jason Morgan), Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth Webber), Kelly Sullivan (Kate Howard/Connie Falconeri), Scott Reeves (Steve Webber), Lisa LoCicero (Olivia Falconeri), Jason Thompson (Patrick Drake), Dominic Zamprogna (Dominic Falconeri), Chad Duell (Michael Corinthos), Jen Lilley (soon-to-be ex-Maxie Jones), Drew Cheetwood (Milo Giambetti), Rebekah Montoya (Delores Padilla), Brandon Barash (Johnny Zacchara), Bradford Anderson (Damien Spinelli), Sean Blakemore (Shawn Butler), Laura Wright (Carly Jacks), Julie Marie Berman (Lulu Spencer-Falconeri), Haley Pulos (Molly Lansing), Erik Valedez (Trey Mitchell), Robin Mattson (Heather Webber), Nathin Butler (Ewen Keenan), Lindsey Morgan (Kristina Corinthos) and Richard Steinmetz (Joe Skully Jr.), were joined by “One Life to Live” turned “GH” stars Kristen Alderson (Starr Manning) and Michael Easton (John McBain), along with the soaps new executive producer Frank Valentini, on the stage as they greeted some of the soaps biggest fans.
For more than half an hour they all took fan questions, while Erik Valdez created a running joke within their answers alluding to shirts coming off. Of course, it couldn’t be helped as Valentini revealed a new boxing set had been built similar to the steam room set seen frequently on “OLTL.” Maurice Benard (Sonny Corinthos) arrived late and was only on hand for the fan autograph signing sessions that took place immediately afterward.
Before Bradford Anderson took the reigns from “GH” Fan Club President Debbie Morris, Valentini was asked if he wanted to say a few words to the audience gathered. While he kept his responses short and sweet, he did reveal that he had arrived late to the party due to an important commitment. “I was at the Director’s Guild meeting this morning with some of the directors from daytime,” he said referring to the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), which is the union that represents directors in movie and television productions – despite being an executive producer, Valentini frequently directs episodes of his soap operas. “This is my first fan club event. I’m really excited about the show and I’m excited about this cast and I think it’ a great day for celebration, so don’t let me get in the middle. Let me share it with you,” Valentini concluded.
Despite receiving pre-prepared questions, Anderson decided to take the unusual approach of giving the fans the chance to ask their own. He walked around the room and had each person he chose say their name and ask their question of a “GH” cast member. The first question asked was how much time the cast have off each year. While the question was directed at the entire cast it was agreed, in particular by Burton and Zamprogna, that Bradford should be the one to answer it for them. “As you guys know, we have a new episode practically everyday. So that means we have to make a new episode practically everyday, and what we’re doing now is we’re trying to do more in less time so that we can save money to keep our fare show on the air for all of you,” the actor answered.
Thanks to the presence of Valentini some of the questions directed at the cast ended up being directed at him instead – in part due to Burton’s insistence on Valentini answering one particular question that referenced the timeslot change for the soap. The exact question was “Do you think the change in the timeslot for ‘GH’ is gonna screw up the ratings?” Burton, deciding it wasn’t something he could answer, immediately jumped up and over the legs of his co-stars to hand the microphone over to his boss who was all the way across the other side of the stage. As fans and cast members laughed over Burton’s gesture, Anderson joked “Aren’t you glad you showed up Frank?” Always the trooper, Valentini said “I think there is always risks in having a timeslot change, but I believe that our audience is loyal enough, but more importantly smart enough, to say ‘okay, now we have to watch GH at 2 so we’ll take our naps at 2, we’ll take our lunch at 2, we’ll take our breaks at 2.’ Here on the west coast it’s at 1 o’clock and I think that’ll be better. I actually think on the west coast it’ll be better for us than on the east coast, where it’ll be more of a challenge.”
While not giving anything away, Valentini did reveal that “we have a really great story that’s gearing up for the fall and we’re going to get a lot of promotion from the the network,” which according to the producer includes the recent blurbs popping up that reminds viewers of the change just before the end of each episode of the soap.
- “I would love to play Johnny [Brandon Barash] because I love how he mixes his bad boy with his charm and sexiness and then he gets to flirt with all the girls in the cast,” said Rebekah Montoya, who was asked which character she would love to play other than her own. Bradford Anderson responded with a joke that it could also be that Barash has “phenomenal chest hair.”
- Although he was hosting the Q&A, Bradford Anderson couldn’t hide from another question from a fan. This time the actor was asked which version of Spinelli does he prefer portraying on the soap, “Do I like geek Spinelli or like just ridiculously weird Spinelli? The Jackal P.I. storyline was fun just because it was a challenge for me and I got to wear clothes that fit, so that was cool. It’s fun to go off in a different direction, but it’s always nice to come back home to my geeky self.”
- New to the cast, Erik Valedez was asked about playing a such a sleaze! “It’s a lot of fun to play a sleaze because I’m really not that guy in real life, I promise you,” the actor joked. “It really is a lot of fun to come in and play such a jerk. With that said, stay tuned! There’s going to be a lot more revealed about this jerk/sleaze bag Trey and I think I take my shirt off a time or two, so maybe you guy’s should keep watching.” Thanks to Valdez, more shirtless responses would soon follow.
- Kristen Alderson was asked about leaving the east coast and no longer working with her brother (Eddie Alderson, who portrayed Matthew Buchanan on “OLTL”). “Well, I still live with my brother so I see him every day,” Alderson said in a joking manner. “I grew up on ‘One Life to Live,’ and that was an amazing experience. It was definitely a big move in my life but L.A. couldn’t be any better than it already is. I love the weather, and I love this cast and crew. They’ve been so welcoming to me.”
- Next up was Robin Mattson, who was asked how much fun she was having with playing crazy Heather Webber. “It’s pretty fun!” Mattson said enthusiastically. “Well let’s see, I get to work with Roger Howarth and Tony Geary. That’s especially fun, in addition to having a wonderful son [Mattson said referring to Scott Reeves as Steven Lars] and his lovely girlfriend, who have been so gracious and generous with themselves in real-life to me, so I made some new friends and it’s been great to join some old friends and enjoy good times again.”
- Fans may have noticed an absent Sean Blakemore on the “GH” canvas, but it’s not because they don’t want to use him – he’s just an in demand actor! Blakemore was asked about his disappearance from the soap and let Valentini, like Burton before him, answer the question. “Just so you know, even before I started on the show, I got a call from Sean’s agent asking to let Sean go and do a movie. I said, ‘you know what, you got to let people do things and spread their wings’ and it wasn’t for a long period of time, but he went and shot a movie. He went and had a great time. As you know it takes time to build things and right now we’re in the process of building something that I think you’ll really like,” said Valentini to the pleased audience. ”What Frank said is absolutely true. You guy’s are going to be very pleased. There’s a lot of fun stuff coming up…interesting and I think I may have a shirt off? You guys will be excited. There’s a lot of funs tuff coming up in the fall,” said Blakemore adding to Valentini’s statement. “Sounds like everyone’s having a shirtless scene…I’m not! I subscribe the the Steve Burton method. I won’t take my shirt off,” Anderson jokingly said afterward.
- I was sitting in the dressing room and I was thinking ‘I can’t do this,’ and then the news broke that I booked it [the role of Maxie] so I was like ‘god I got to go upstairs and do this, I can’t give it away!’ and everyone was so kind and so welcoming and no one ever made me feel awkward in an awkward circumstance,” said Jen Lilley when asked about what was going through her head as she was about to take on the role of Maxie Jones from Kirsten Storms, who had gone on medical leave at the time.
- A fan of Jason and Sam wanted some intel on where the cards land in the couple’s future, but Steve Burton stated “We have been advised by Frank Valentini not to answer those questions, so if you want to tweet him please feel free. He does respond every now and then. He’s very interactive socially on the networks also.”
- The ultimate question fans have been asking about since 2001, when it was last seen, was whether or not the show plans on bringing back the uber popular Nurse’s Ball event. The question was of course directed at Frank Valentini. “I’ll just say this, I love music and I love Nurses.”
On a posting on the Official “General Hospital” fan club web site, Debbie Morris revealed that “Yes, we are already working on plans for a fabulous 50th Anniversary Fan Club Weekend, like no other….so stay tuned!” If you were unable to attend this year’s festivities, make sure to keep one weekend in July 2013 (TBD) on your radar so you can go next time.