Pay Cuts: The New Economic Reality of Soap Operas


Why pay cuts are the new norm given the economic state of US daytime soap operas.

Two months ago the stock market fell over 800 points in one day. We discovered that large brokerage houses like JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers were in dire financial trouble. I remember the day very well as it was the beginning of the end.

Every day we would hear of layoffs and cost cutting procedures from different companies ranging from banks to retail to the automotive industry. Congress passed an emergency bailout plan. Some of our favorite stores like Tweeter and Linens N Things started liquidating and closing their doors right before the holidays. This economic crisis is hitting everywhere including the entertainment industry. Our favorite soap operas, which have been on the air for decades, were about to change as well.

On November 17, word broke that NBC’s Days of Our Lives had fired long time stars Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn. The reason? Budget cuts. Variety had previously reported that Days of Our Lives had been renewed and that their budget had to be cut from $1.7 million to $1.2 million a week. Fan favorites Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn, as well as the talented Blake Berris were the first that received their pink slips. Then reports started coming in that veteran Days of Our Lives actors Kristian Alfonso and Peter Reckell were asked and took major pay cuts. Come to find out, Days of Our Lives is not the only soap opera that is doing this.

Agnes Nixon, creator of the ABC soaps All My Children and One Life to Live, confirmed to Advertising Age magazine that cost cutting procedures were in effect over at ABC. Nixon, who serves as a consultant on AMC confirmed that she, along with veteran actors Susan Lucci, Michael E Knight and Ray MacDonnell have taken considerable pay cuts. Nixon also is quoted in Advertising Age that all the actors on AMC are seeing their salaries cut. A statement from ABC Daytime was issued this Tuesday stating that the network was “carefully and responsibly managing our costs, which include some production cuts, but in ways the audience will not see on screen.” Basically, everyone is getting their salary reduced.

Which leads me to this question. How would you feel if you were Susan Lucci, Peter Reckell or Michael E Knight and you were asked to take a reduction in your salary to keep your job? Lucci has worked on AMC for 38 years. She was reportedly making over $1 million dollars a year. Or if you were Deidre Hall, who has worked at Days on and off for thirty two years or Hogestyn, himself a twenty two year veteran and was fired out right. They weren’t even asked if they would take a reduction. These longtime veterans who have made Days of Our Lives and NBC an enormous amount of money for over twenty years weren’t even given the respect that they deserve.

Let me give you a hypothetical. Let’s say I have worked for a company for the last twenty five years. I am fifty five years old. I have worked hard and moved up the ranks and I am now considered middle management. I make a quarter of a million dollars a year in a job that I work fifty hours a week at and have five weeks vacation. I have never used all five weeks a year and in all those years I had to take a leave once for personal reasons and I was gone for three weeks. Me, a typical, average person in the working world. We are in the same economic climate that we are in today and one day my boss came in and says this. “Trisha, we are in a shaky economy right now and we have to make some budget cuts. We are reducing your salary by half.” I have a decision to make. Take a one hundred twenty five thousand dollar deduction from my salary or quit or be fired. This will affect my retirement in five, maybe ten years. It will affect my pension and my 401(K) and how much I will be able to retire on. If I do choose to leave, I am taking a real chance because I am fifty five and in this current economic climate, who would hire me? I have worked at the same company for twenty five years and make a great deal of money because I am good at what I do. That sounds insane doesn’t it? That is what Ray MacDonnell, Kristian Alfonso, Michael E Knight and many others on our favorite soaps are going through right now.

Can we even stop this? Probably not, but we may see the end of soaps as we know it. Would you want to stay at a job that cut your salary in half? Our favorites may leave and is there anything we can do? Yes. We can write to the networks and the magazines and express our support for the actors. We can watch our soaps every day. Buy the products that they advertise. We can get the word out before this genre dies. If we show our appreciation maybe, just maybe the belt will loosen a little on the soaps budget and the actors will get awarded. Right now, soaps are in a state of emergency right now. We only have eight soap operas on network TV now. It is imperative that we support our soap operas now more than ever. We have to show the top executives that we will do whatever it takes to keep our soap operas alive. Because a year from now, we could be discussing the eighth hour of the Today show and the fifth hour of Good Morning America. And that soap opera fans, would just really suck.

Send your feedback regarding this column to trish.mahon@tvsourcemagazine.com

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