New York -- ABC has dropped Charlotte, N.C., one of the
test markets for its cable soap-opera channel, after finding that airing the shows a week
after they ran on broadcast was a flop -- as expected.
"A woman in one of our focus groups said it was like
reading a newspaper that was a week old," said Angela Shapiro, president of ABC
Daytime, which is in charge of the test of the All My Soaps channel.
However, ABC will continue testing All My Soaps on cable
systems in Chicago and Houston, Shapiro said, until the end of the year.
In July, ABC kicked off its test of the soap-opera channel
as a prelude to ABC possibly "repurposing" its daytime shows by time-shifting
them onto a full-time cable All My Soaps channel. For the test, ABC has been time-shifting
General Hospital, One Life to Live and All My Children.
In Charlotte, where the ABC affiliate is Cox Enterprises
Inc.-owned WSOC-TV, the soap operas were rebroadcast on All My Soaps a week after they
first ran on ABC. That test -- which ended Oct. 4 -- was being done on a Time Warner Cable
But in the other systems and markets, Time Warner in
Houston and Tele-Communications Inc. in Chicago, the shows were being rebroadcast on cable
in primetime after airing earlier that same day in the afternoon.
According to Shapiro, ABC expected that time-shifting its
soap operas to a week after they aired on broadcast, which was done in Charlotte, would be
too long a lag to be meaningful to consumers, who can keep track of what has happened on
their favorite sudsers on the Internet, or in soap-opera fan magazines and newspapers.
"As we went into this, our gut feeling was this would
not be successful," Shapiro said.
In contrast, she said, ABC's quantitative and
qualitative research on time-shifting the soap operas to primetime the same day they air
has been very positive.
Originally, about 800,000 cable homes were supposed to be
involved in the three markets, but Shapiro didn't have a count as to how many cable
subscribers were involved now without Charlotte.
ABC has already done one ad campaign -- which included
print, outdoor, radio and TV -- for All My Soaps in the three test markets. Shapiro said
in the next two weeks there will be a second campaign in the two remaining test markets,
which will target "lapsed" or former soap-opera watchers.
ABC is using the test in part to answer questions, and
allay the fears, of its TV station affiliates, some of whom fear time-shifting the soaps
will cannibalize their daytime audience.
The test was started under the tenure of Pat Fili-Krushel,
former president of ABC Daytime, who has since been promoted and named president of the
ABC Television Network.