DYNASTY's time-slot and production costs

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by Michael Torrance, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Any idea why ABC started moving DYNASTY around? After seasons 2 and 3 when ABC tried to establish a drama in the Wednesday 9 p.m. slot, and DYNASTY was at 10 p.m., by season 4 it was perched at 9 p.m. and stayed there for seasons 4,5, 6 and 7. It became its most established slot. Then for season 8 it moved it back to 10 p.m. Except instead of dramas, it now had sitcoms as its lead in, and lackluster sitcoms at that ("Hooperman," "The Slap Maxwell Story."). ABC complained that DYNASTY lots 1/3 of its female audience during the 87-88 season, and while the show was certainly not much improved from the previous season, it certainly wasn't worse. In fact, because of the shorter episode run and the season-long arc, it was tighter than before. So, the ratings decline may have something to do with the slot also. CBS knew not to mess with the Dallas slot these years.

    And of course we all know the fateful decision of season 9. An article I read some time ago explained how the show was losing money during season 9: production cost of one episode of "Dynasty" was $1.3 million (which I will explain is not actually much) whereas ABC's ad revenue was down to $1.1 million. Paulsen's decision to cut salary costs (mostly through reducing Collins and welcoming the departure of Evans) and give it to more exterior shots and some new actors was a result of this reality. By the way, the cost of DYNASTY had actually stayed the same since season six, when an episode cost exactly $1.3 million again so as I said, hardly increased. But in an interview Paulsen explained what had ballooned: "''over time the stars of the shows make more and more money. All these shows are cutting back. It's just gotten too expensive. And we'll have to cut more, if the show is to come back.'' The show did not cost much in terms of particular production values, it cost more because all the actors were now free of their original multi-year contracts and had increased their salaries. Additionally, soaps in general did not rerun well and by that time there was no interest to rerun a show that was not in the top #30 (in season 8) to begin with. But this begs the question: since ABC knew all these, why decide to move DYNASTY in its weaker years, once in season 8 and again in season 9 and still claim they were trying to save the show (especially in season 9, where Paulsen's arrival generated a lot of press)?
     
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  2. Snarky's Ghost

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    ABC had grown to hate the show, the execs aware of the creative mess DYNASTY was in, and the producers' inability to fix it despite semi-annual PR campaigns claiming the show was now back on track when, quite obviously, it was not (at least not until S9 when it was much too late).
     
  3. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Well, the move from Mondays made sense - it had to be moved because of Monday Night Football if they wanted to give it full seasons. Considering they cancelled fellow Aaron Spelling show Vega$ I suppose it made some sense to just slide Dynasty into its slot on Wednesday 10PM. I'm guessing they didn't want to risk messing up a good thing with a rising show in season three so avoided to move it - of course, in season four another Spelling drama arrived (Hotel), so it made sense for them to slide Dynasty down to 9PM to give it a strong lead-in.

    Of course, they slid it back up to 10PM in season 8 because realistically, the show was getting weaker ratingswise and it's a lesser slot. Hotel was also getting weak so they just sent it off to Thursdays to die, which is the same thing they did to Dynasty in season 9. They had basically given up on even trying in that time slot at that point.
     
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  4. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Yeah, but the thing is, it was doing much better in the 9 p.m. slot in season 7 than in the 10 p.m. one in season 8--and it's not like ABC ended up getting a ratings winner with the sitcoms it placed as lead-ins. It makes sense to give the better slot to a stronger show to watch it go even higher, but these sitcoms tanked and were cancelled themselves. In fact Hooperman got worse ratings in that slot (15.3) for 1987-1988 than Dynasty did the year before (17.2). DYNASTY finished season 7 at #14, hardly a ratings failure. The slide really started in season 8, which again I don't think is worse than 7B to justify the worse ratings. The season 7 finale and the episode before that were at #14 with a 17.2 Nielsen. When it premiered in its new slot, it was at #29 with a 16.5. It kept sliding after that.

    Now, good Dynasty of seasons 2 and 3 would have thrived in any slot, so I am not saying the slot is the main reason the show was not doing well, but it certainly made a bad situation worse. And again, I am pretty sure Sarah Curtis did not have better ratings than season 8 based on the brilliant plot.

    I believe ABC hated the show--the new team at the helm wanted to distance itself from that and Spelling. But at the same time they put nothing on that was as successful as Dynasty used to be--save one. Moonlighting was ABC's talked-about show at the time, and it had a lot of buzz and ratings, but talk about a show that became a train wreck quicker than Dynasty. And Dynasty was a creative mess even when it was #1 in the ratings. But I do think they wanted to be the cool network, and Glenn Gordon Caron and Bochco represented that, and Spelling didn't.
     
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  5. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I just think they saw a possibility of building their own comedy night on Wednesdays, just like NBC had managed on Thursdays and to be fair - they did. They obviously had Growing Pains and then Wonder Years there that did well beyond Dynasty. I think they just ended up seeing Dynasty as a placeholder in both season 8 and certainly in season 9; a show that could end up filling a time slot until they had a strategy to fix it, but not much else.
     
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  6. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Yeah, I see your point about the sitcoms. My puzzlement is that they decided the slot change at the end of season 7, when the show was back at #14 and at a 17.2 rating. That is not a placeholder rating. It was beating Knots Landing (and Miami Vice) that year, and was tied with Falcon Crest and L.A. Law. It became a placeholder the next year, and by season 9 its ratings were so low, there was a time in the 9th season it was not even certain they would order the full 22 episodes.
     
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  7. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Dynasty was at #24 and declining through out the season:

    https://apnews.com/8b88c811e8a46829a70e88d2d6b9cf9c
     
  8. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    It was at #24 because it dipped in the middle, but
    Shadow Play (episode 28) was at 14th (17.6)
    The Affair (episode 27) was at 14th (16.8)
    The Confession (episode 26) was at 13th (16.9)

    In the middle of the Sarah Curtis travesty, it was down to 40th (13.7) with "The Surgery" (episode 20) but it was gaining strength again once that was over.
     
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  9. Snarky's Ghost

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    That's happened many times in TV history: a once top-rated show dips, perhaps significantly, and gets canceled and replaced with programs that won't do nearly as well as the show it replaced even when at its lowest.
     
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  10. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Yeah, it does. I am just amazed that ABC went from the network that was so enamored with DYNASTY, it wanted two nights of it in 1985, to cancelling COLBYS and moving DYNASTY around 2 years later, all the while distancing itself from the brand.
     
  11. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    I would, as an ABC executive, demand the production team be changed (or politely demoted) midway through. With a show-runner of whom I approved.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
  12. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I'd assume there was a change at the top somewhere - I recall when Melrose Place was cancelled in 1999 it was largely down to the former chief being fired (who had been very supportive of it) and someone new put into place in January that year; in the 1999-2000 season the same person also ended Beverly Hills, 90210 and Party of Five. If someone new comes into power at the top, expect changes on the network. That might have happened with the "Aaron Spelling purge" in the late 80s on ABC.
     
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  13. colbyco

    colbyco Soap Chat Active Member

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    I think it has to do with the new head power at ABC ... they didn´t like the show, they didn´t want to be called Aaron´s Broad Casting Company anymore ...
     
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  14. colbyco

    colbyco Soap Chat Active Member

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    Joan wrote about it in her 2. autobiography

    DC 1.jpg
    DC 2.jpg
    DC 3.jpg
     
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  15. colbyco

    colbyco Soap Chat Active Member

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  16. colbyco

    colbyco Soap Chat Active Member

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    I just found what Paulsen said about ABC´s behaviour:

    " I mean so much of DYNASTY had to do with the table settings, the elegance of the gowns, the make up, which is why it did not last as long as the other two shows did. We were on the way to changing that, but there was a decision by the president of the network to get rid of the show even before the year I came on began. So we didn’t have much of a chance. It was a financial situation, so ... "
     
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  17. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Well, ABC was not an ideal home for a soap opera, and DYNASTY probably would not have happened if not for Spelling's grip on it at the time. Unlike CBS, which had 3 of the big four prime time soaps on its lineup, ABC had only DYNASTY until they tried (too late, when the genre was in decline) with the COLBYS clone. I think once Iger wanted to free ABC of Spelling, DYNASTY was an expected casualty. True, if the show had not damaged its own brand so much, maybe it would have been enough of an ad revenue to give it another year's decent time-slot, but the general desire to get rid of the same brand that had kept the network in the ratings for years would have led to bad moves from ABC sooner or later. Iger made it sooner, and was proud to call himself the man who killed DYNASTY. But the network moved the show even before the final season, as I stated at the start of the thread, which helped not at all.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
  18. GillesDenver

    GillesDenver Soap Chat Active Member

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    Michael, you forgot "Paper Dolls" in 1984. ;-)
     
  19. Gabriel Maxwell

    Gabriel Maxwell Soap Chat Addict

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    Yes, but it should be noted ABC initially moved Hotel to Saturdays for fall 1987 and in the 1980s you would not necessarily be expected to die there - The Love Boat & Fantasy Island thrived on ABC Saturdays for many years. Other networks also had big hits, for instance that very season NBC's Golden Girls was a #4 show in America.

    Hotel was still in its Saturday timeslot when ABC canceled it in December 1987 and abruptly took it off air and shut down production effectively cutting the episode order to 17. The show then went on a 3-month hiatus until the final 4 episodes were burned off on Thursdays in the spring of 1988.

    But how could they have known that when they announced the fall schedule in May 1987? Hooperman was from the legendary Hill Street Blues & L.A. Law producer Steven Bochco with a major sitcom star The Three's Company's John Ritter attached to it. A hot new series or an aging soap with declining ratings whose spin-off they just got rid off? The 10pm move was a no-brainer.

    This is the key. And a crucial moment occurred on March 19, 1985 when Dynasty was still safely perched at the very top of the ratings. That's when Capital Cities purchased the ABC television network for $3.5 billion. And the network was never going to be the same (well, until Disney bought it from Capital Cities a decade later anyway).

    Capital Cities didn't just hate Dynasty. They hated ALL of Aaron Spelling's schlock programming. It is not a coincidence the producer went from 7 hours per week (a third of ABC's prime-time line-up) that season to zero in 1989. By 1986 already they ordered no new dramas from him for their fall line-up and after his Lucille Ball sitcom flopped, his soapy roster was no longer a priority.

    There was a great article in The New York Times published on March 26, 1985 - a week after the CC acquisition of ABC - pondering how CC company culture would mesh with ABC and especially Aaron Spelling's brand of entertainment. Sadly the article's currently unavailable.

    And that's why Brandon Stoddard, then ABC’s new entertainment division president, publicly promised that the network would no longer be “Aaron’s Broadcasting Company.” The implication, which wasn’t lost on either Spelling or his competitors, was that Spelling not only couldn’t deliver the sort of quality shows that Stoddard wanted, but also bore some responsibility for ABC’s nosedive in the ratings in the mid-1980s - despite Dynasty's top position in 1985, the network as a whole was stuck in the last place and the new owners wanted to radically change its schedule.

    That's the equivalent of $3.1 million today which used to be average to somewhat below-average just a few years ago. Nowadays, with strong competition from streaming, the budgets for hour-long dramas have gone up to $5-10 million (and an episode of 'Games of Thrones' costs a record-breaking $15 million). I wonder how Dynasty compared to other network shows at the time. They claimed at its peak it was the most expensive show on TV, but who knows.

    One thing I remember reading, ABC used to charge almost $200k per 30 seconds of ad time when the show was at the top (that's almost half a million in today's dollars), so they used to make a lot more than $1.1 million before the ratings nosedive.

    Another thing to consider - networks usually pay license fees to production studios for rights to air the show, in this case to Spelling. The license fee is usually half the production budget (the studio then makes up the difference and eventually posts profit with international and syndication sales). So, if an episode of Dynasty cost $1.3 million, that's not what ABC paid for it. And if their revenue was $1.1 million (how accurate are these figures?) they would still be profitable.
     
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  20. Snarky's Ghost

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    It's also worth noting that between 1985 and 1987 DYNASTY had the fastest two-year drop in the ratings for a former #1 show in history. For all that's worth.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019

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