Entertainment Industry

Category: Soap Operas

Dish Network to distribute new Univision channels

The telenovela "Soy Tu Duena" ran on Univision.
Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications has secured Dish Network as a launch pad for its three new cable channels.

Since last spring, when Univision announced its new channel initiative, the New York media company has been searching for pay-TV companies to carry them. On Monday, Univision and Dish said they had struck a long-term agreement for Dish to carry Univision's planned sports, telenovela and news channels when they go live in the coming months.

"This is a significant deal for Univision," said Tonia O'Connor, Univision's head of distribution, sales and marketing. "We are taking our most popular content and using it to launch cable networks."

The company's planned soap opera or telenovela channel is expected to start March 1 as part of Dish's Latino programming package. Called Univision tlNovelas, the new channel is expected to feature some of the most popular soaps from Mexico's programming powerhouse Grupo Televisa, which has an equity stake in Univision.

The other two channels are scheduled to go live in April. The sports channel, Univision Deportes, will feature Mexican Primera Division soccer matches and live coverage of FIFA events. The companies said the channel will be offered as part of one of Dish's most widely distributed packages, increasing the number of subscribers that will have access to it.

Also scheduled to launch in April is the Spanish-language cable news network Univision Noticias.  Designed to provide news from Mexico, Latin America and around the world, it will have more limited distribution, offered on Dish's Latino programming package.

The Univision-Dish deal is part of a trend of major U.S. media companies to bolster offerings that appeal to Latinos, the nation's fastest-growing demographic group. Last month, online video site Hulu announced a programming service to better reach Spanish speakers.

“We are pleased to have reached an innovative deal with Univision for their newest channels and their prime-time novelas on demand,” Dave Shull, Dish's senior vice president of programming, said in a statement.

The deal also represents Univision's first major foray into "authenticated" Internet distribution of its programming through a pay-TV provider. Dish customers will be able to access Univision's content online after registering and verifying that they are paying subscribers. Dish will stream the old telenovelas as part of Dish's Blockbuster@Home package.

Related:

Univision plans three new cable channels

Furor-stoking LA radio duo defies pigeon-holing

Hulu announces Spanish-language programming service

-- Meg James 

Photo: A scene from "Soy Tu Duena," a popular telenovela that ran on Univision. Credit: Antonio Uribe / Univision

More soap opera drama: Brian Frons out at ABC

BrianFronsABCThe drama continues at ABC Daytime.

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.

VickiDummerFrons had reported to Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney/ABC Television Group. 

"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.

RELATED:

Plans for ABC soap operas online fall through

Cancellations a crying shame for fans of soap operas

ABC ending soaps "All My Children" and "One Life to Live"

-- Meg James 

Photos of Brian Frons (top right) and Vicki Dummer (bottom left) / Credit:  Craig Sjodin / ABC 

Prospect Park pulls plug on Internet soap operas

AntonioVillaraigosaAllMyChildren

Just five months after rolling out plans to adapt the ABC soap operas "All My Children" and "One Life to Live"  for the Internet, independent production firm Prospect Park said it was abandoning its effort.

The move, announced Wednesday, likely will be another punch in the gut for soap opera fans who were hopeful that Prospect Park could revive a fading genre.  Only four network soap operas will remain on the air after this season, including CBS' top-rated "Young and the Restless," NBC's "Days of Our Lives," and ABC's "General Hospital."

Prospect Park founders said their plans collapsed when they could not reach agreement with the guilds that represent the actors and workers.  The production firm had been looking for concessions that would have made their Web series profitable.

"We always knew it would be an uphill battle to create something historical, and unfortunately we couldn’t ultimately secure the backing and clear all the hurdles in time," Prospect Park's partners Rich Frank and Jeffrey Kwatinetz said in a statement. "We believe we exhausted all reasonable options apparent to us, but despite enormous personal, as well as financial cost to ourselves, we failed to find a solution.

"It is now becoming clear that mounting issues make our ability to meet our deadlines to get 'One Life to Live' on the air in a reasonable time period ... impossible," the statement continued.

"One Life to Live" ends its ABC run Jan. 13. The network pulled the curtain on "All My Children" in September after revising the finale so that Prospect Park could pick up the story lines.

"While we narrowed in on a financial infrastructure, the contractual demands of the guilds, which regulate our industry, coupled with the program’s inherent economic challenges ultimately led to this final decision," Prospect Park said. "In the end, the constraints of the current marketplace, including the evolution and impact of new media on our industry simply proved too great a match for even our passion."

RELATED:

Crying shame for fans of soaps

Moving soaps from TV to Web: Easier said than done

Daytime television deserves better than daytime Emmys

-- Meg James

Photo:  Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa makes a guest appearance on ABC's "All My Children" with Susan Lucci in 2010. Credit:  Stefano Paltera / For The Times

Couric's deal with ABC puts cloud over 'General Hospital'

GENHOSPITAL

ABC's new deal with Katie Couric for a daytime talk show raises questions about the future of the network's long-running soap opera "General Hospital."

Although Couric's new show, which is set to premiere in fall 2012, is syndicated, ABC has already said it will put the program on at 3 p.m. on its own stations, which is the time many of them currently show "General Hospital."

That doesn't necessarily mean "General Hospital" is going to flat-line. It has a year or so to prove itself worthy of survival and earn a new home on the network's daytime schedule.

Earlier this year, ABC pulled the plug on the soaps "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" and is replacing them with chat shows "The Chew" and "The Revolution" this fall. When Couric's show debuts, something -- "The Chew," "Revolution" or "General Hospital" -- probably will have to be canceled to make room for her.

The odds that both "The Chew" and "The Revolution" will succeed are long. "General Hospital" could move into the time slot of whichever is weaker.

But if both do work, it could be "General Hospital" that is put to sleep.

An ABC spokeswoman said the Couric news does not automatically mean the end of "General Hospital." "There are many options that could happen ... the best way to ensure a favorite show stays on the air is to watch it," she said.

-- Joe Flint

RELATED:

Katie Couric signs with ABC

Photo: ABC's "General Hospital." Credit: ABC

Facing the loss of its soaps, Hoover pulls advertising from ABC

Millions of soap opera fans aren't the only ones who had the rug pulled out from under them.

HooverLogo Hoover, the vacuum cleaner company, said it was yanking its advertising from Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC after the network's decision last week to sweep two of its three soap operas off its daytime schedule.

"My wife and mother are both passionate viewers of 'All My Children' and 'One Life to Live,' as are many of my colleagues here at Hoover," marketing executive Brian Kirkendall wrote this week on Hoover's Facebook page.

Kirkendall said Hoover would vacuum all of its commercials off ABC by Friday. "We're making every attempt to pull our spots from these programs sooner," he wrote.

Kirkendall was not available Tuesday. The network declined to comment.

Hoover also set up an email address, SaveTheSoaps@hoover.com, to compile email from consumers who are upset about ABC's decision to cancel the two dramas that have been anchors of  ABC's daytime schedule for more than 40 years.

Whether Hoover's campaign is a clever marketing ploy, or simply was a sympathetic voice among a sea of anguished viewers -- it worked.

"Way to go Hoover! You made a fan of me!," wrote one woman on Hoover's Facebook page.

"Hoover, you are by far the best!!! I'm getting a new Hoover this weekend,"  wrote another.

RELATED:

ABC cancels `All My Children' and One Life to Live'

Jobs will go down drain with cancellation of ABC soaps

-- Meg James
 

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