ABC Daytime Prez Frons Leaving the Network

Just one day after he handed the reigns of ABC’s sole surviving soap “General Hospital” to current “One Life to Live” headwriter Ron Carlivati and executive producer Frank Valentini, ABC Daytime President Brian Frons is leaving the network. It’s a pyrrhic victory for soap fans who have been calling for his ouster since he canceled OLTL and “All My Children” and replaced them with lifestyle shows “The Chew” and “The Revolution.” Frons left his job of his own volition.  Disney-ABC TV Group President Anne Sweeney stated, ““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’re sad to see him go.”

Frons departure does not mean that the soaps are coming back. ABC will consolidate its network daytime and syndication departments into a new division, Times Square Studios, which will be run by Viki Dummer, who is currently the Senior Vice President of Current Series and Specials for ABC.  According to Deadline, Times Square Studios will develop “non scripted lifestyle and health programming.”  Said Sweeney, “We took this opportunity to rethink our business, and the result was the creation of Times Square Studios. Having it be part of the ABC Entertainment Group, under the supervision of proven executives Vicki Dummer and Paul Lee, provides us the opportunity to bring greater creative resources, development strength and operational flexibility to this key area of our business.”

Frons final statement made it clear that the era of ABC soaps is over. “While my decision to try something new was not arrived at easily, nine years is a long time in television terms. I’m proud of the performance of ABC Daytime over that time, and of all of the accomplishments that our team achieved along the way. I’m especially pleased by the early results for “The Chew” and excited for the launch of “The Revolution,” which will be one more positive step in transforming ABC Daytime for our viewers.”

Frons tenure on ABC Daytime was controversial. Many fans considered his reliance upon focus groups to shape story, and his insistence that a few male characters he liked — AMC’s Ryan (Cameron Mathison), OLTL’s John (Michael Easton) and GH’s” Jason (Steve Burton) and Sonny (Mauice Benard) — always be the focus of storylines to be detrimental to the shows’ quality. Frons also tended to put his foot in his mouth during interviews. When asked to compare AMC’s lesbian storyline to “Grey’s Anatomy’s,” during a videotaped interview he said, “Our lesbians are cuter than theirs.” He also notoriously stated that “viewers needed to be trained,” to like the storylines and characters that he preferred. On the other hand, those who worked with him say that, as misguided as his ideas often were, he professed to love the soap genre. His final act, handing GH to the team that managed to raise OLTL’s ratings after the show was canceled by crafting storylines that both fans and the critics love, could be seen as an attempt to make sure that the soap, whose cancellation seems to be a foregone conclusion in light of ABC Daytime’s new direction, has a satisfying finale.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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