TV Advertisers Balk at ABC’s ‘Rock Hudson’

From Times Wire Services

Several advertisers who found “Rock Hudson” to be “problematic” pulled their advertisements from Monday night’s made-for-TV movie, Allen Sabinson, the head of movies for ABC, said Tuesday.

“Rock Hudson” was a film biography of the movie and television star who died of AIDS in 1985. The movie was based on a book by Hudson’s former wife, Phyllis Gates, and court records from a civil suit against Hudson’s estate brought by Marc Christian, Hudson’s lover during the last years of Hudson’s life.

Advertisers buy some blocks of time--such as the ABC Monday Night Movie time period--before they know what will be shown. When the schedules are set, advertisers are then allowed to preview any programming they think might concern them. Several asked to see “Rock Hudson” and then withdrew their ads, Sabinson said.

Those advertisers found the film “problematic by subject matter,” Sabinson said. He added that homosexuality is a “greater taboo” among sponsors than other controversial topics such as child molestation, which is the subject of “Unspeakable Acts,” ABC’s Monday movie next week.


Sabinson declined to name the advertisers who withdrew their ads. He also declined to indicate how many advertisers removed their commercials. He did say he believed that fewer advertisers canceled for “Rock Hudson” than had canceled their ads last spring for NBC’s “Roe Vs. Wade,” a film about the landmark abortion rights case that met some of the stiffest advertiser resistance in recent years.

Sabinson characterized the advertising community as reluctant to become involved with controversial movies and miniseries.