Days Gets Additional Lives on SoapNet

Acquisition of popular soap is a coup for the cable channel

After a long courtship, Disney-owned cable channel SoapNet is adding replays of Days of Our Lives
to its soap opera lineup.

Acquiring the Sony Pictures Television drama, which runs on NBC, is a coup for SoapNet, which has promised cable and satellite operators it would be more than just repurposed ABC shows. Until this Days of Our Lives
deal, however, SoapNet has existed solely on ABC's shows and older hour dramas like Dallas
and Dynasty.

Beginning March 15, episodes of Days
will rerun on SoapNet same day at 7 p.m. ET and again in Sunday-night marathons. Although 7 p.m. isn't technically considered prime time, SoapNet sells advertisers an "extended" prime time that runs from 7 p.m. to midnight ET. SoapNet also gets rights to some episodes for stunts and promotions.

The five-year deal is said to be worth $30 million. Several other cable nets were also in the hunt for the show.

Thanks in part to its Disney ties, SoapNet has pushed into nearly 35 million homes, mostly with analog distribution. It delivers strong ratings for a niche net, a 0.6 in prime time for November, and has one of adult cable's younger median ages: 42.

Still, the channel has lusted after big-name shows like Days of Our Lives, as well as Sony's other hot soap The Young and the Restless, which runs on CBS. Two other CBS soaps, As the World Turns
and Guiding Light, are Proctor & Gamble properties.

SoapNet and Sony finally started negotiations for Days
last summer, but, says network General Manager Deborah Blackwell, who has headed the channel since June 2001, "they've known about our desire since I've been here."

The opportunity for SoapNet opened up earlier this year when Sony renewed its broadcast deal with NBC. Sony tacked on rights to repurpose the 38-year-old soap somewhere on cable.

Adding Days, the top-rated soap for women 18-34, will be "transformational" for the channel, Blackwell says. "The big idea is to have all the shows. I really hope that this clears the way to make the next acquisition easier."

Sony Pictures Television President Steve Mosko said SoapNet "is a really good cheerleader for this genre." Both the show and NBC will benefit from the association with the channel, he said. "It will now be an active promoter of Days."

SoapNet has room for one more strip in its prime time. After that, a current soap would have to be pushed earlier into fringe or deeper into late night. That's where the grand plan for SoapNet comes into play: creating a multiplex of SoapNet channels. Disney chief Michael Eisner is known to be a proponent of the idea.

But Blackwell cautions that spinoffs are a "long-term plan" and are not something Disney has approached operators with yet. "For now, we're focused on getting full distribution for SoapNet."