Daytime Gets More Than One Life to LiveSlashing soaps and cutting costs have helped resurrect the daypart 5/13/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Updated May 14, 2013, 11:40 am ET
Many once-stalwart businesses
were in danger of becoming
extinct in the wake of 2008-09’s
Great Recession, but few faced the challenges
of daytime television.
Daytime was once populated by longrunning
soap operas and talk shows viewed
by loyal audiences. But it had declined approximately
50% since 2000 due to audience
fragmentation. Production costs continued to
climb, while advertising revenue plummeted.
Something had to give, and the movement
from disaster to stability has been a story line
worthy of serial drama.
The number of daytime dramas post-2008
dwindled and eventually dropped, as of last
year, to four: ABC’s General Hospital, CBS’
The Young and the Restless and The Bold and
the Beautiful and NBC’s Days of Our Lives were
all that remained. Soap opera fans were vocal
in their outrage, but networks could not afford
to keep most of the shows on, especially
when their ratings had plunged precipitously.
Shows that cost as much as 40% less to produce,
such as CBS’ The Talk and Let’s Make a
Deal and ABC’s The Chew and The Revolution,
replaced those expensive soaps.
Daytime executive jobs were also slashed,
with only CBS retaining an exec, Angelica
McDaniel, to oversee daytime. ABC Daytime
president Brian Frons departed in December
2011 and was replaced with Vicki Dummer,executive VP,
ABC Media Group, current series and specials
in New York.
NBC, whose network daytime is filled by
two extra hours of Today and Days of Our
Lives, has no daytime department, although
Bruce Evans, senior VP of current series, now
oversees Days. The third and fourth hours of
the Today show are overseen by Patricia Fili-
Krushel, chairman of the NBC Universal News
Group, and Today executive producer Don
Nash. No executives from Today agreed to be
interviewed for this story.
The daytime TV landscape now looks entirely
different. And yet, now that the dust
has settled, it appears the painful cuts have
achieved their goal: healthier networks.
This season, ABC’s daytime is up 10% to a
2.2 average household rating season-to-date
(through April 22), according to Nielsen Media
Research. CBS, the daytime and primetime
ratings leader, is up 4% to a 2.7. NBC
is steady at a 2.1, just behind ABC, and that
has to be considered a solid performance considering
the media turmoil around the Today
show and the ongoing difficulties faced by
NBC in primetime.
Fox does not program daytime, so owned
and affiliated Fox stations fill their daytime
hours with syndicated programming purchased
from various producers.
Last fall, ABC returned an hour of daytime
to its owned TV stations and affiliates, which
then for the most part was !lled with Disney/
ABC Domestic Television Distribution’s Katie,
the syndicated talk show starring Katie Couric.
While the culling of the soap operas
was hard for fans to take, audiences
appear to have coalesced around the
stories that remain.
“I think it’s made our already fiercely
loyal viewers even more supportive of
their individual shows,” says NBC’s
Evans. “I also think it’s made these already
amazing production machines
really evaluate every aspect of their
process to make sure they are maximizing
So far this season, General Hospital has seen
the most improvement of any soap, climbing
21% in households to a 2.3 from a 1.9; GH is up
7% among women 25-54, to a 1.6 from a 1.5.
“There’s a renaissance going on among the
soap operas,” says Frank Valentini, General
Hospital executive producer, who came over
after One Life to Live was canceled in January
2012. “We’ve brought back characters from
the past, introduced new ones, changed the
tempo and pace of the show’s storytelling and
added a lot of humor. There’s always something
for the audience to come back to, and
for new viewers to come to.”
General Hospital recently resurrected its
famous “Nurses Ball” for three days, in celebration
of the show’s 50th anniversary, and
peppered it with musical performances from
former GH star Rick Spring!eld (who sang
“Jessie’s Girl”) and Jack Wagner, returning
as Frisco Jones (performing “All I Need”).
Both of those songs then became available on
Apple’s iTunes store.
“You need to access all of the equity that’s
in this brand and exploit it in all aspects of
media,” says Valentini.
CBS’ soap leader, The Young and the Restless
is steady both in households at a 3.6 and
women 25-54 at a 2.2. Among the younger
female demos, Y&R is flat among women 18-
34 and down 6% among women 18-49. The
Bold and the Beautiful, CBS’ other remaining
soap, is up 4% to a 2.6 in households, and up
14% among women 25-54 to a 1.6. B&B is
steady among the younger female demographics,
which are important to advertisers but less
available in daytime than older women.
“We now have to do a great deal more for a
great deal less,” says Jill Farren-Phelps, Y&R
's executive producer. “It’s been very difficult to
have to lose some of the tried-and-true tricks
that I used to be able to use to make audiences
feel a certain way, such as original music.
Now we have to do other creative things
to excite the audience. We’ve done a lot to
make it move faster without disrupting our
Days of Our Lives, whose Bo and Hope characters
were once the darlings of daytime TV, is
steady both in households at a 2.0 and among
women 25-54. The show is down 14% among
the younger female demographics comprised of
women 18-34 and women 18-49. Days is about
to make a leap into the online world by adding
itself to the Zeebox second-screen experience,
which will allow viewers to get extra content
and interact with other fans.
More and more daytime fans—no
matter their age—are !nding themselves
headed online and on to Facebook and
Twitter to follow their favorite shows.
Two of the four soaps that were cut,
ABC’s All My Children and One Life to
Live, are now being produced online
by Prospect Park. The two series premiered
on the Web on April 29. Initial
reviews of that experiment have been
positive—especially regarding the
shows’ production values—but whether they
will draw enough of an audience to be pro!table
remains to be seen.
The other last two soaps to depart—CBS’
Guiding Light and As the World Turns, which
aired for 72 and 54 years, respectively—appear
to have permanently ended their runs.
Talk’s Got Game
Once they had made the hard decision to
cut some soaps, ABC and CBS pursued lessexpensive
talk and game shows. NBC took a different
tack, expanding Today to three hours in
2000 and then to four in 2007, with Hoda Kotb
and Kathie Lee Gifford taking hosting duties.
ABC replaced All My Children with The
Chew in 2011 and One Life to Live with The
Revolution in 2012. The Revolution was a quick
failure. But The Chew, a food-and-lifestylefocused
talk show, seems to have found a
home on ABC’s schedule, although it’s not a
huge ratings performer.
In households, The Chew is up
12% this season to a 1.9. The
show is down slightly among
women 25-54, to a 0.9 from a
1.0, while it’s "at among women
18-49 and down 20%, or a tenth
of a point, among women 18-34,
to a 0.4 from a 0.5.
“It’s a solid show,” says Gordon
Elliott, who created and executive
produces The Chew, which stars
Mario Batali, Carla Hall, Clinton
Kelly, Michael Symon and Daphne
Oz. Elliott also serves as the show’s off-screen announcer. “We’ve been tweaking it,
doing a lot of research with our viewers,” he
says. “We are and always will be centered on
food, but now we’re more lifestyle.”
Elliott says The Chew’s viewers are so interested
in the information the show presents
that its recipe-laden website is the secondmost
visited stop on ABC.com, behind only
Dancing With the Stars.
The Chew’s big sister, The View, now !nishing
its 16th season, is a daytime staple. This
season, The View has declined 7% in households
to a 2.6 from a 2.8 and has dropped
20% among women 25-54 to a 1.2 from a 1.5.
Joy Behar, who has been with the show since
it began in 1997, is departing, so the series is
seeking a new panelist.
“This will be our sixth major incarnation,”
says Bill Geddie, The View executive producer.
“We’re not looking to replace Joy, because
she’s irreplaceable. We’re not necessarily looking
for an unknown or for someone young.
We are looking for someone who is interesting
and different in their own right.”
Last winter, rumors flew that Elisabeth Hasselbeck
could be leaving the show as well.
Geddie says that’s not true at this point, but
“we’ve always had an open policy about it.
If [Elisabeth] finds something else that she
wants to do, she can go do it.”
Like ABC, CBS also replaced two soap operas
with a talk show, The Talk, and a remake of
the iconic game show, Let’s Make a Deal, starring
Wayne Brady. The Price Is Right remains
on the air, and that show has been revitalized
since the 2007 addition of Drew Carey, who
took over for the retired Bob Barker.
All three of those shows are growing for
CBS, with The Talk up 6% in households to a
1.8, The Price Is Right up 6% to a 3.8 and Let’s
Make a Deal up 14% to a 2.2.
“With the addition of The Talk, we’ve found
a formula that works for us with dramas,
game and talk,” says McDaniel, CBS Daytime's
senior VP. “It may have been controversial at
the time to let go of a soap to bring on a talk
show, but The Talk is now a platform for us to
highlight our soap stars.”
and Social Media
On both ABC and CBS, daytime
shows cross-promote each other—and
the networks’ primetime line-ups—as
much as possible. NBC also does this
on the third and fourth hours of Today,
although in its current weakened
state—averaging 4.8 million viewers to
Good Morning America’s 5.5 million—
Today is less powerful as a promotional
machine than it once was.
From April 22-26, CBS celebrated
“Big Money Week,” which kicked off
with a live video chat with Carey and Brady on
CBS.com. During the week, The Price Is Right
gave contestants the chance to win nearly
$2 million in cash and prizes, including a new
Ferrari, while Let’s Make a Deal featured the
return of the “Super Deal,” with a chance to
“Let’s Make a Deal is the No. 1 game show
on Twitter. We get 85,000 hits a day on that
show,” says Thom Beers, CEO of Fremantle-
Media North America, which produces both
Price and Deal.
Meanwhile, The Talk hosted its Million-Dollar
Baby Shower on April 26, giving viewers at
home the chance to win prizes online.
CBS’ Big Money Week is only one example
of how the network is working to integrate
and incorporate its brand across both television
and social media platforms. Bluefin Labs,
which analyzes social media results, recently
named CBS Daytime the top social network
“Social media opens us up to the viewers
and lets them feel like they are part of something
great,” says McDaniel. “[The Talk] really
is the foundation that allowed us to create that
feeling. We’ve organically been implementing
social media in that show. It’s something I’m
always pushing all of the shows to do.”
ABC operates similarly, with stars from The
Chew appearing on General Hospital and viceversa.
On May 13 and 14, characters from
General Hospital will appear on a fictionalized
version of The Chew.
There are many other examples of cross-promotion,
including Rayna James, Connie Britton’s
character on ABC’s Nashville, appearing on
Katie to talk about her career and her divorce in
an episode of the primetime drama. Katie Couric
herself also did a cameo on General Hospital,
playing someone other than her famous self.
“Our approach is strategic and fun, but
it needs to feel organic and I think it’s been
well-received,” says ABC’s Dummer. “When
we can make it work organically it’s really the
best possible promotion, and I think it’s great
fun for viewers.”
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