More than six years after taking the reins at SoapNet, general manager Deborah Blackwell will leave the network early next year. Blackwell will remain at the network as a consultant until her contract expires at that time.
Brian Frons, president of Daytime, Disney-ABC Television Group, announced that Blackwell’s position will not be filled and that he will manage the network on a day-to-day basis. Formed in May 2006 under Frons, the company’s daytime division directs the creation, production and delivery of all product for ABC Daytime, SoapNet and Buena Vista Productions.
Blackwell, who joined SoapNet in June 2001, has overseen an almost seven-fold growth in subscribers for the service, which has also significantly bolstered its content roster during her tenure.
“When I joined the company six and a half years ago, SoapNet was a new cable channel in under 10 million homes. Today SoapNet reaches more than 67 million households, airs same-day episodes of soaps from ABC, CBS and NBC, and also airs an exciting mix of original programs and primetime soaps,” Blackwell said in a statement. “I’m very proud of these accomplishments, but it also means that the channel has changed. The entrepreneurial environment of our early days is now different. There is an amazingly talented, hard-working and creative team at SoapNet, and with the recent changes to the Group, changes which ensure SoapNet’s continued viability, it just seemed like the best time to move on.”
Since Blackwell began heading the network, SoapNet launched original series I Wanne Be A Soap Star, The Fashionista Diaries and SoapTalk, the SportsCenter of the genre; added same-day airings of General Hospital, Young and the Restless, All My Children, As The World Turns and One Life to Live, among other broadcast network daytime fare; and acquired former primetime soaps like Dallas, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210 and more recently One Tree Hill and The O.C.
“I want to thank Deborah for her dedication and leadership.Her influence can be measured in distribution gains, original programming, acquisitions and the strength of SoapNet’s brand,” Frons said in a statment. “She’s built a strong foundation and successfully positioned the channel for future growth.”
In the third quarter, SoapNet saw its primetime household rating decline 33% to a 0.4 average from a 0.6 mark in the corresponding year-earlier period, while viewership slipped 5% to 328,000 from 347,000, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
Gauged on a total-day basis, SoapNet was off 33% to a 0.2 rating in the third quarter, while viewership dipped 2% to 156,000 watchers on average from the year-earlier span.
Blackwell, who was honored as a Wonder Woman by Multichannel News in 2005, joined Disney ABC Cable Networks Group, a division of The Walt Disney Co., in June 2001. Her resume included a stint as the head of the Television Movie and Miniseries Packaging Department at the William Morris Agency from 1993-99. In that capacity, she led creative and business negotiations with all TV networks, studios and suppliers, and with top celebrity clients, including Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Dreyfuss, Danny Glover, Alec Baldwin and Drew Barrymore. She became an agent after rising from director of development to senior vice president at Hearst Entertainment. Prior to joining SoapNet, she served as president of Idealab’s MyHome.com, an Internet start-up.