Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ATI's Jim Romanovich on the ABC Moves & The Emmys

ATI's Jim Romanovich, president of Worldwide Media and Entertainment, has offered We Love Soaps his commentary on some of the recent events in the soap opera industry and why it is important to support the Daytime Emmys this year.

Never before has the business of the art been more prevalent than what we see today. Especially in daytime television. What ATI started back in January with the Daytime Emmys telecast was in direct relation to the business of the art. In January, before we were involved, the business to art ratio out of sync- meaning that the stature of the Daytime Emmys alone was not enough to supersede the business model from previous years. We had to generate a new model of revenue from which The Daytime Emmys could be produced. This model may be the way of the future for event driven television. The economy will recover but that doesn’t mean they go back to business as usual. Viewer habits have changed so radically that it would be suicide to go back to an archaic way of doing business. Being obsolete by merely standing still. Technology continues to give us new avenues of entertainment and if television doesn’t figure out a way to hook on for the ride, they’ll be left in the town of See-Ya-Later-Ville.

The ABC decision to move AMC to Los Angeles is no big surprise. I said this two weeks ago in an interview with Roger at WLS that perhaps LA is the place where the Emmys should be because that’s where the programs are. NY is no longer the television Mecca it once was. There is nothing cost efficient about NY which is why productions are escaping to Connecticut. I clearly stated this a few weeks back. And it’s really a shame as I absolutely love New York City. If I could live on the Upper West side and still maintain a decent lifestyle for my kids, I’d do it in a second. I love the excitement and the efficiency of living in a city. Everything you could want is a short walk or taxi ride. But I know I can’t because Manhattan is cost prohibitive. And I think the soaps really belong in New York if we’re speaking in tradition only. There’s something inherent in the city itself for soap operas.

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But the AMC move to Los Angeles is the best news I’ve heard all year and soap fans should rejoice. They are looking at the future of their shows and not at a way to ease them out. The word “streamlining” is a very carefully chosen word. But it’s a good one-unless you work on the show. It’s good because all the money is going into what’s absolutely necessary to have in the show. Can they do five shows in three days instead of five? Will shooting in HD make the shows more saleable internationally? The bad news is that NY crews are out of work (unless given the chance to relocate which is very difficult to do) and cast members get reduced salaries or are cut completely if they’re not in a major storyline. The good news about AMC, GH and OLTL that the other shows don’t have is that they’re all owned by ABC. That makes a big difference in whether something is worthwhile or not. ATI owns everything it does. I spoke before about profit margins in a previous interview. In ABC’s case, the profit margin is probably better on GH than on the Y&R, citing these two only as examples, because Sony, not CBS, owns Y&R (along with maybe The Bells and others). As a network, would you put your money behind something you owned solely or partially? Solely, of course. But Y&R is the #1 show in HH and in the coveted demo. GH has been declining in ratings yet still maintains a second place, on average, rating in the demo. What really matters is what the profit margin comparisons are between GH and Y&R understanding the ownership principle I mentioned above. We’re not talking creative, folks. Everybody is their own expert on what they like and don’t like. Even me. As of this moment, I’m enjoying Y&R more than GH although I’m a lifelong GH fan. But we’re not talking about art, are we…the business of the art is all that matters to those who are responsible for keeping the ship afloat. It’s always been that way. On the flipside, my firm belief is that you can’t have decent business without decent art. But the business model, i.e. the money, will determine what the art is going to look like. The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous displays of art ever created. That only exists because the Church commissioned Michelangelo to paint it. It was a work for hire! The money determines the art. The “art” that really matters is if “Art” is the first name of the guy paying for the show!

Fans should be encouraged that Y&R received a new two year deal. That shows tremendous faith. Yes, there will be some major cuts, but in today’s world it’s unavoidable. As I said, even if things turned around and the economy was booming, cuts have to be made because declining viewer habits have changed advertising value. It’s as simple as that. But I’m glad they’ll be around as I’m really a huge fan of key people on that show. Jeanne Cooper is one woman who I think is amazing. She was wonderful to me when I came to see her and invited me back any time I wished. I loved her comment about her Visa card and paying for the Emmy. I know she gave TV Guide another comment about the Emmys and I agree with her. This is what we’re trying to update in our Emmys telecast. We’re all about the show because as one who did grow up in the Midwest, I just wanted to be entertained. That’s all we mean to do. And I think viewers will agree. Once again, this telecast is nothing more than a platform to promote the daytime shows in an entertaining manner. So, I do agree with her 100%. I love her feistiness though!

But the whole daytime community has to support Daytime Emmys this year because they are supporting themselves. That means the fans, the viewers, and the actors/producers/writers. Without their support, the Daytime Emmys’ future becomes a question mark. Regardless, it’s been a blast to being a part of it this year. Everyone is very excited and we have had such tremendous support from the actors and the shows as I think our enthusiasm is infectious. They appreciate the fact that we appreciate them. And we do.

ATI are producing this year's Daytime Emmy telecast on Sunday, August 30, on The CW.

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