News and PR Insights from 5W Public Relations CEO Ronn Torossian

Can ABC Sell Roseanne Without Roseanne?

public relations television

What do you do when you have a hit show but choose to fire the star? A star, who also happens to be the program’s namesake? If you’re ABC, you reboot the same show without that cast member, and try to sell it to the same fans who loves the old version of the show.

Here’s the rub… Many of the fans who loved Roseanne, loved it because of the frank conversations about politics and current events through the filter of multiple different perspectives. In firing Roseanne for a tweet about Valerie Jarrett, ABC angered many of the same fans that say they loved the show’s take on free — and not “politically correct” — speech. Many of those loyal Roseanne fans agreed that, as the actress said, the tweet was in poor taste and a “bad joke”. They didn’t see the need for Roseanne to lose her job, though, even if they, personally, didn’t like her comments. Now, regardless of how fans feel about how the incident with Roseanne was handled, there’s no doubt we have a very interesting PR campaign about to unfold.

ABC has to sell this new version of the program to Roseanne fans without Roseanne, and they have to sell this, largely, to fans that are angry about the circumstances that cause the show to be pulled off the air in the first place. So, on one hand, you have fans that may be glad to have their favorite show back on the air… but many of these same fans will probably also be livid at the circumstances.

If ABC wants to make this work, they need to take a page from the NFL about how not to get it done. The NFL took most of a year to figure out what to do about last season’s anthem controversy. By the time the league developed a message and communicated it, huge numbers of fans were done with pro football. They may be happy with the league’s ultimate decision, but they’re not coming back, because they don’t want to give the league the satisfaction.

So, if this kind of appeasement didn’t work for the NFL, even after the league tried to give disgruntled fans what they wanted, what are the chances it will work for ABC, a network that is not giving Roseanne fans what they really want to see? It’s certainly a long shot, but ABC believes they have the have the star power left on the show to recapture the magic. This fall, we will see if that faith is justified. Between now and then, the attempts to woo jaded fans will be interesting to watch.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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