Canceling Daytime Soap Operas Is Easy, Replacing Them Is Not
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/26/2012 9:09:49 AM
Soap operas might still be popular with a certain segment of audience, but they are very expensive to produce and offer virtually no opportunity for the networks to make any kind of ad dollars with product integrations in which advertisers are interested. So, much like ABC when it canceled All My Children and One Life to Live, and like CBS did in axing The Guiding Light and As the World Turns, the networks will eventually look to replace them with more "advertiser-friendly" types of programming.
The problem for the broadcast networks, however, is that there really isn't much for them to turn to as replacement programming. Daytime today, with all the cable networks, is very competitive for viewers' attention, and there are so many cooking shows in primetime that the last thing many viewers want to watch in daytime are more cooking shows.
This season, ABC replaced All My Children from 1-2 p.m. each day with The Chew, a cooking show with a group of co-hosts including Mario Batali. Live ratings-wise, The Chew is doing about the same as All My Children was. It is averaging 2.2 million viewers compared to All My Children's 2.4 million, but it also has a median age of 59, two years older than the soap opera's median age viewer. Some buyers have said that while the network touts those live numbers as being close to equal, All My Children was drawing a significantly larger audience when DVR viewing is factored in.
ABC also replaced One Life to Live with The Revolution, a lifestyle talk show that helped women lose weight and increase their self-esteem. It failed to draw a large enough audience and has been cancelled.
One Life to Live, with a median age of 54, was averaging 2.5 million viewers, including 837,000 viewers 18-49 and one million viewers 25-54. The Revolution, with a median age of 58, which will stay on the air until July 6 when it will be replaced by an afternoon version of Good Morning America, is averaging 1.3 million viewers, with 401,000 18-49 viewers and 518,000 25-54 viewers.
ABC is now hoping that its afternoon version of GMA will be able to challenge rival CBS' The Talk, which airs in the same 2 p.m. time period. The Talk is also not doing as well as One Life to Live when it aired. The Talk is averaging 2.1 million viewers, the same as it did in its first season, which is a good sign. But the talk show, which has a group of co-hosts also aged up two years since last year, now has a median-age audience of 58.
The View, which airs at 11 a.m. on ABC, averages 3.5 million viewers, down just slightly from 3.6 million last season, but it too has aged up two years since the year before to a median age audience of 61.
The most-watched soap opera of the remaining four is CBS' The Young and the Restless, which draws 4.3 million per episode, down about a half million from 4.8 million last season. It has lost an equal number of viewers 18-49 and 25-54, but its median age has remained constant at 58.
CBS also has the next most-watched soap in The Bold and the Beautiful, which averaged 3.1 million viewers per episode, up from 3 million last season.
NBC's Days of Our Lives and ABC's General Hospital both have about the same number of viewers, although Days this season has aged up significantly. General Hospital averages 2.3 million viewers per episode, while Days averages 2.4 million. Both are down slightly from last season and have seen the median age of their viewers rise. General Hospital has a median age viewer of 54 this season, up from 52, while Days has a median age viewer of 58, up from 53.
CBS continues to be the only network with games shows, airing two half hours each of Let's Make a Deal from 10-11 a.m. and The Price Is Right from 11-12 p.m. Let's Make a Deal draws an average 2.3 million viewers for each of its two half-hour shows each day, while The Price Is Right draws an average of 4.6 million viewers per show. They both have median age audiences north of 60, with the Price Is Right having the older audience with a median age of 63.
With the remaining four soap operas, the concerns are less with overall audience erosion than they are with the aging up of the audience. It seems the viewers they are losing are younger. That's why they are hoping that the talk shows might bring in younger viewers, but that hasn't been the case either.
"The consensus that the daytime soap operas are all washed up is somewhat true," says Billie Gold, VP, director of buying/programming at Carat. "Women today don't have the time to commit to a five-day-a-week storyline. Ratings have been falling for years as more women enter the workforce or stay-at-home moms engage their children in play dates and social activities outside the household. Moms available to watch TV have so many viable cable choices at a click of the remote, while other moms choose to watch shows with their children."
Brad Adgate, senior VP, director of research, at Horizon Media agrees. "Soap operas harken back to a simpler time when a woman could devote several hours a day, five days a week to watching a continuing storyline," Adgate says. "Today, so many women are working outside the home. They are helicopter parents, coming and going and whatever shows the kids are watching when the moms are home, the mothers sit down and watch them too."
While the four soaps have seemingly stemmed the tide for a while, it is probably just a matter of time before the networks make them disappear too.
"All daytime shows have a median age of 50 or more and all of the soaps are close to 60," Adgate says. "And the daytime audience is never going to get any younger. Right now, if the ad pricing is right, advertisers can still buy daytime and get enough of a younger audience in the total to make it worthwhile. But it's hard to say how long that will continue. That's why they are trying to put shows on with product integrations."
From an investment/cost standpoint, Gold says, "The networks stand to pull in a lot more money from a talk show or cooking show, because not only are they cheaper to produce but there are many more opportunities for product placement and sponsorships."
Sadly for the soaps, winning Emmys is no assurance that the networks will keep them around. CBS' The Guiding Light won an Emmy in its final season, while As the World Turns won two -- for Best Actor and Best Actress -- but that didn't result in the network brass changing their minds about cancelling it. So this year's impressive five Daytime Emmy wins by ABC's General Hospital -- for Best Drama, Best Lead Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Directing Team -- is no guarantee that there will be any long-term security for the network's lone remaining daytime soap.
Gold believes the networks are at a crossroads in daytime.
"As they continue to cancel the soap operas, they are going to flood daytime with more talk, game and cooking shows, making it especially hard to garner a large share of audience," Gold says. "And right now, they don't seem to have any other genre to replace them with. Maybe giving the stations back some hours in the daypart may be more of an option for them in the future."
I remember AMC and OLTL ending with cliff-hangers, and other stories that didn't get to be explored. Ideal cliff-hangers I could picture for ATWT and GL would have been...
ATWT: Fans learning that Jennifer and Rose are very much alive and well, as well as David Stenbeck being alive and well, and holding them captive, and possibly working for Damien. Meg turning up missing, but being held captive by Damien. Chris and Katie getting married, and his new beginning as hospital chief-of-staff. Andy Dixon returning to ATWT storyline.
GL: Fans learning that Coop, Maureen, Ross, and Tony are very much alive and well, and Marah making the accidentally on purpose discovery. The fate of legacy characters Meta Bauer and Mike Bauer being addressed. Josh and Reva's much anticipated reunion and wedding. Harley, Holly, and Abby returning to the GL storyline.
I could picture those 4 soaps, and maybe Capitol and Another World coming back.
Eric - 7/7/2012 7:43:44 PM EDT
I have been watching GH since 1972, the year my son was born. Through out my career in law enforcement, I would faithfully record GH and watch on the weekends while cleaning house. Now, I am retired and still find time to watch GH. I do wonder, however, why Maurice Bernard did not win this year's Best Actor.
When a person has invested a life time in a Soap, why would you want to replace it with a boring talk show or worse, a food or game show?
Elena Solis - 7/1/2012 7:35:33 PM EDT
I love my soaps and have watched for many years there is nothing that can replace them. I do get a bit frustaed with the writers sometime when they keep letting some old same old happen such as Victor and Niki they keep going to other simple because they can not communicate with one another and this crazy Ricky how many people have to die before someone besides paul see that he is sick. sharon and nickneed to wise upand get back together. Victoria and nick and abby since when are you entitled because your dad is rich.
generalhospital Johnny needs to get his fast and heather needs help, her son needs a clue. these new shows that are"t good I watch soap net all the time I want my soaps back all of them and I would love the opportunity to write for them. I watched them allsince the beginning I am truly addicted and I type them some special types I have kept and watch themsometime for all time sack. don:t you care how your fans feel.
Jackie Johnston - 6/29/2012 10:29:09 PM EDT
I'm praying and hoping that the daytime soap genre can ride out this storm, and find its way back to greatness. I, like countless other soap fans, miss watching shows, like As the World Turns, Guiding Light, All My Children, One Life to Live, and Another World, among other great soaps. A lot of actors and actresses credit the soaps for launching their careers in TV and motion picture. Another soap that I hear was very good, but wasn't old enough to remember it was the CBS soap Capitol. We don't know if on-line soaps, like The Bay and River Ridge are daytime TV material. I would support all the daytime shows in the half-hour format... and the mentality of less is more.
Eric - 6/29/2012 6:21:20 PM EDT
So sorry to hear the major networks don't care enough about want we the viewer wants to keep our soaps on the air. I see that the replacements for the most part are not doing any better no surprize there!There are so many other channels we can patronize that it is rediculous to think that viewer will keep watching your station when you remove the shows we tune in for. I for one am not interested in fixing me, talk shows,and we have enough cooking shows there are two whole channels of them! So ABC goodbye till you get a clue. Going to miss some of your shows but you take them off when you get ready anyway so I will make the choice not to watch.By the way I am a retired TV junkie who watches tv from 6AM till Midnite or later, and spent many hours on ABC before I realize you don't care what your viewers want.
Deborah Mason - 6/29/2012 3:57:32 PM EDT
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