More soap opera drama: Brian Frons out at ABC
Brian Frons, the longtime president of ABC Daytime, is leaving the network amid its high-stakes transition from soap operas to lower-cost talk and lifestyle shows.
In recent months, there have been rumblings about Frons' own future as ABC canceled two of its three long-running soap operas --"All My Children" and "One Life To Live." Frons joined the network in 2002 to oversee soap operas and other daytime programming. But the once lucrative soap opera genre has steadily lost viewers, and the shows are no longer profitable.
The Walt Disney Co.-owned network will plug its daytime programming block with lower-cost shows like "The Chew," about food, and upcoming "The Revolution," a makeover show. Frons -- who began his television career at CBS in 1978 -- had less experience with those formats.
He will stay on until his contract ends in January. ABC said Vicki Dummer, who joined ABC in 1996 and oversees specials and established prime-time shows, would replace Frons.
ABC also said Friday that it was creating Times Square Studios, which it described as an "integrated current entertainment programming and development division." The new studio will oversee the production of such daytime shows as "The View," "The Chew" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
Dummer, whose new title is executive vice president of Times Square Studios, Current Series and Specials, will retain some of her responsibilities in prime-time.
Dummer helped develop such ABC hits as "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Dharma & Greg." She will report to ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee. The move sets up a new, more streamlined, management structure.
"Brian Frons has been the driving force in our successful daytime division since joining us in 2002, and while we understand his decision to leave at the end of his contract, we are sad to see him go," Sweeney said in a statement.
ABC declined to make its executives available for interviews.
The company also is scrapping its SoapNet cable channel, which had been dedicated to soaps, rebranding it as Disney Junior and stocking it with programming that appeals to the preschool crowd.
Frons, despite his credentials, was reviled among soap opera fans after announcing this year that the network would cancel "All My Children," which ended in September, and "One Life to Live," which goes off the air next month. Fans launched online petitions and a Facebook page demanding that he be fired. On the Facebook page, the bespectacled executive was portrayed as "the Grim Reaper of Daytime," wearing a hooded black frock and wielding a scythe.
Frons' departure was announced one day after he fired Jill Farren Phelps, the executive producer of "General Hospital." Frank Valentini, executive producer of "One Life to Live," replaces Phelps.
-- Meg James
Photos of Brian Frons (top right) and Vicki Dummer (bottom left) / Credit: Craig Sjodin / ABC