Cuts at ATWT & GL; SoapCity Shrinks to Two Soaps

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Fighting to stay on the air & Moving out of SoapCity

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Dear Suds Buds,

When word came down that CBS had renewed As the World Turns and Guiding Light for two more years, it came on the heels of a major breaking story as reported at Daytime ratings were decreasing. Fans seemed to be leaving the genre in droves. Yet, CBS’ faith in Procter & Gamble Productions’ (PGP) two remaining soaps appeared to belie the notion that soaps could be on the way out.   Head of PGP, Mary Dwyer-Dobbin was quoted as saying they were about to embark on a major marketing campaign – translated financial investment – into promoting ATWT and GL. 

All good.  The shows get a two year pick up.  PGP is committed to promoting them. 

But no sooner had PGP made that announcement, rumors began to emerge regarding the demands CBS put forth in order to continue to air the soaps into 2007.  Major demand number 1:  cut the fat.  Major demand numbers 2-10:  cut more fat.  So, what’s a show’s producer to do?  Where is there room in the budget to trim down? 

One line of thinking is to cut cast.  Especially cast who have been in back burner stories for a while. No one will miss them anyway.  Or so the producers may think.  Then, there are cast members who have been with the show so long that their salaries are over inflated. Agents and/or managers have a way of negotiating very healthy contracts.  If a show is top heavy, meaning more of the actors have been with the show oh let’s say six years or more, their salaries are a lot higher than someone who is with the show maybe two years and is in a front burner storyline.  Finally, instead of out and out canceling someone’s contract, producers may decide to request the actor’s cooperation on a pay cut.  Keep your job, keep your status, keep your back burner story, but take less money.

It has been rumored recently that ATWT is letting Hunt Block go due to contract squabbles.  He refused a pay cut.  It is also rumored that Cady McClain (Rosanna) will soon leave the ATWT roster; although I have a hard time believing that pay cut is the cause of her exit.  She has always been rather hard to pin down, opting to work on recurring status, instead of on contract.  Maybe the show feels her loyalties lie elsewhere? My guess is that her loyalties lie with herself.  She is independent and does what she wants.  She’d just prefer not to be confined within the boundaries of a contract. 

This week, CL, one of Soapdom’s contributors, alerted me to the latest rumored casualty on a PGP soap.  It seems that Kim Zimmer (Reva) chose not to take a pay cut during the remainder of her current contract. It is alleged that she said she was open to re-negotiating next year, when her contract expired, but she felt her current contract was negotiated and agreed to and should remain in place.  Buzz is that PGP and/or CBS felt differently, and Reva will soon fade into the soap sunset.  Plus, I have just heard that Marj Dusay (Alexandra) may be the next to walk the plank at GL.

Naturally, fans are in an uproar.  Especially in Zimmer’s case, as she has been a mainstay in Springfield for years. Ergo, therein lies the monetary problem.  She is probably making way big bucks.  With the dollars the production company pays Zimmer, they could hire three younger, newer actors, with a potential for nine new storylines and that equates to a far bigger bang for the buck. 

At this point I am not confirming or denying that any of the above is true.   PGP refrains from commenting on contract status, so we won’t get anything concrete from them directly, either.  I am only laying out the realities of soap opera production. 

Speaking of PGP soaps, SoapCity will cease covering As the World Turns and Guiding Light as an official website beginning June 1, 2005.  SoapCity will revert to its original premise – covering only Days of our Lives (a soap its parent company, Sony, distributes) and the Young and the Restless (a soap that Sony partially owns).  Which leads me to wonder if Sony had entered into a financial arrangement to promote ATWT and GL on SoapCity and now that contract is done.  ATWT and GL had webmasters working at their offices in NYC and publishing to the SoapCity official sites. Are those webmasters now fired? Is that another way to cut the fat? 

Whatever methods PGP must deploy to reduce expenditures and beef up story, I can only speculate that they must be thinking long and hard before making any moves. The last thing they want to do is further alienate viewers.  But it is what it is, and if cutting the fat is what it takes to keep the shows on the air, than that’s what they may be forced to do. 

Share Your Thoughts:

How have soaps impacted your life?  Do you have a fond memory to share about growing up with soaps?  What would you like to see happen on your favorite soap? Why do you think viewers are leaving the genre in droves?  Tell me on the Criticize the Critic Message Board.

Til the top of next week,

Linda Marshall-Smith
CEO, Soapdom, Inc.

What do YOU think?  Share your thoughts in the "Criticize the Critic" forum  on the Message Boards