More exits from the daytime landscape continue… and this time it’s not a soap star, or a soap opera… but longtime journalist, Nelson Branco, most recently of TV Guide Canada. In this exclusive interview, Branco reveals to On-Air On-Soaps that he is no longer with the online outlet, and his infamous Suds Report has seen its last days.
With many rumored reports that Branco was suspended by the web platform for the twitter debacle a few weeks ago, and that the company made him take down his twitter account, plus the fact that he was not in attendance at this year’s Daytime Emmys, it left many fans and industry professionals scratching their heads, wondering just what is going on with him. Now for the first time, Branco discusses in detail what transpired, and what may be the next step in his career.
Soap fans were looking for your Suds Report this past Friday, and there was not one posted. Leading to several theories about what is going on with you and TVG Canada. Can you tell everyone what has happened, and if you are still doing columns and interviews for them?
NELSON: It’s true — after five years, I’ve left TVguide.ca as its soap columnist. The publisher axed my soap columns due to budget cuts and a budgetary realignment at Transcontinental. Or at least that’s what they tell me. Yes, after my Twitter drama a couple of weeks ago, the timing does seem suspect — and I’m not entirely sure I believe them but that’s their official explanation. I wish I could say that my role was being recast or I left to pursue other interests, as they say in the soap world, but alas I’m just in a pay-cut dispute…me and Melody Thomas Scott. (Laughs)
But to their credit, during this spring, after my editor Amber Dowling claimed that I’m the highest paid freelancer in Canada (I highly doubt that and hope that the Canadian journalists in Afghanistan are paid more) and griped that I’m making more than the full-time staff there, she suggested that in addition to my three weekly soap columns/features, I write three prime-time TV reviews and one news story a week for free to dilute my pay per column rate and convince the publisher Caroline Andrews, who has always been anti-soap despite the success of my column, to keep the soap hub afloat for a while longer. I’m not sure if you noticed, but I began writing these random prime-time reviews/stories, a medium I normally only cover for Hello! Canada — this past month or so. And a month ago, they re-branded my hub from “Soaps” to “Daytime.”
So honestly, I have no reason not to believe them because TVGuide.ca and I have been in talks for the past couple of months about the end days of the soap column since there will only be four soaps to cover in the New Year. I offered to resign in January 2012 so I could file my last column in conjunction with One Life’s finale, which I thought would have been appropriate since the ABC sudser is my all-time fave soap. I had no interest in writing a column with only four soaps so I thought that was a nice compromise.
My former editor, who edited my soap columns, Denette Wilford quit recently and she was not replaced. My guess is Transcontinental is gearing to close the site all together soon. Transcontinental — which publishes several successful magazines (mainly for the French-speaking Quebec) — is hanging on to TVG for the lucrative TV listings it generates which they sell to newspapers, TV guides, and cable companies. So I don’t think they have much interest in providing original editorial content on their main site anymore. But you’ll have to ask them. Any way, I feel the timing is right to end the column. Everyone I know, respect, and love in daytime is leaving the genre! I’m in great company. (Laughs)
Next, your followers saw that the Suds Report Twitter account had been deleted. Many fans reached out to me and many others trying to find you and wanting to know what happened. Was this your decision to delete it, or again, TV Guide Canada enforcing this upon you?
NELSON: That was my decision. In fact, TVGuide.ca wasn’t happy to learn I shut down my Twitter account because they liked to piggyback on my followers. I had four times as many followers than all the TVGC editors combined so they weren’t happy I could no longer link their stories to my readers. But If I knew it would cause this much of a brouhaha, I would have kept it. It’s a personal twitter account and is not related in any way to TVGuide.ca in any way, which is why they don’t put me in their twitter feed on their main site. I just nicknamed myself “@sudsreport” to help promote the column. I took down my twitter account three Saturdays ago at midnight of my own volition — and I can assure you, my editors were probably partying or sleeping and not paying attention to the Twit drama. It was becoming a huge time waster for me as I was becoming addicted to the forum — and doing my best writing on there instead of in my work. But the deciding factor was when several imposters started following me and claiming they were me and calling me an HIV-faggot. I thought I’d just end the madness, which I take full responsibility for. And I’ve apologized to everyone involved. The one thing that incenses me is that you have these anonymous haters who attack you; at least, when I voice my opinions, I use my real name and have to face the people I’m critical of vis-à-vis. It’s the height of cowardice to be critical of someone anonymously. Say what you want but we can’t have an honest dialogue if there is a veil of anonymity and you don’t know who exactly you are talking to. Unfortunately, that’s one part of social media that is frustrating and counterproductive.
You have been an outspoken critic and yet, an advocate for the soaps for many years, having a unique voice on the genre, as well as breaking news and behind-the-scenes tidbits to fans of daytime. Do you feel now after all that has happened that you would like to continue with another platform doing the same? Or, can you see yourself taking a step back and focusing on other aspects of your career? For instance, I hear you are writing a book right now, and you also continue to do mainstream stories for Hello! Canada and others.
NELSON: For the past year, I’ve been writing a national daily daytime talk show, writing three soap columns a week for TVGC, covering prime-time and film weekly for Hello! Canada and doing the odd gig for the gay press (so I can sleep at night) — I’ve been greedy and need a break! I think I have said everything I wanted to say about the genre. It’s funny because I came back to soaps in 2006 after leaving the business full time in 1998, although I freelanced once-in-a-while for Soaps In Depth and Soap Opera Weekly whenever I was inspired, so the success of this column in the medium’s end days shocked me. I never expected a little soap column in Canada to take off the way it did and shake up the industry. I pretty much single-handedly put TVGuide.ca on the international map with the column, and basically provided the website with original content and breaking news whereas the majority of the site is all re-purposed content, so I’m proud of that. But I’ll still do the odd mainstream soap story – here and there.
You were unable to attend the Daytime Emmys this year; did you happen to watch the telecast? If so, what did you think of it? And the winners? Many commented that it was strange not having you in the press room.
NELSON: Yep, I decided to cover the Much Music Video Awards on the same night after I confirmed who was and wasn’t attending the Daytime Emmy Awards. I used to supplement my own expenses by selling off mainstream interviews at the ceremony to Hello! and other magazines, but during the past couple of years no one marketable has showed up…not even the Emmy nominees themselves. It’s really sad. In fact, I think it’s kind of gross that people like Kelly Ripa, Regis Philbin, Barbara Walters, and Ellen DeGeneres don’t show up to support the industry that has made them very rich and famous, especially since it’s taken a lot of hits recently and could use some friends/allies, just because it’s not cool anymore. They’ve abandoned their own. The Daytime Emmy Awards is more than just handing out awards.
I was, however, planning to make it to the Creative Arts Emmys to support Venice and the hardworking soap crews, as I do every year, but the day I was supposed to leave Toronto’s airport workers went on strike, so I took that has an omen to stay here because there’s nothing worse than being stuck in transit. I’ve been to Daytime Emmy Awards every year since 1995 so I was a bit sad not to be there and celebrate this unique business but as you know they aren’t what they used to be. So instead of losing money that weekend, I made money covering the Much Music Video Awards instead. And it turned out to be a wise decision! As for the Emmys, I am happy for the winners, but I think next year they should air on cbs.com and honor the industry properly.
For a parting shot here, what would you like to say to daytime fans who have religiously read, Suds Report and Soapgeist over the years, as well to the daytime community?
NELSON: Hang in there! The genre will continue to evolve. Soaps aren’t going anywhere.