Broadcast TV network daytime, dominated for decades by soap operas, is continuing to change its programming mix, trading those old-skewing serialized daytime dramas for shows aimed at bringing a younger, more diverse audience into the mix.
In the wake of CBS' replacing long-running soap As the World Turns last fall with ensemble cast talk show The Talk, ABC announced a few weeks ago that for the upcoming TV season, it will end two of its three remaining soaps, All My Children and One Life to Live, replacing them with an ensemble cast-hosted food show, The Chew, and a weight loss show, The Revolution.
With the broadcast upfront selling season set to kick off in mid-May, ABC last week quickly brought in 25 of its top advertisers and their media agency buyers to meet with the producers and hosts of both shows to give them a feel for what they will be like for the viewers and what types of advertising will fit best for each.
While some industry observers have said canceling two hour-long soap operas in the same season is risky, the prevailing wisdom, and one that ABC officials embraced, is that the networks need to draw younger audiences during the day if possible to compete with cable. They also have to find ways to bring a more diverse number of advertisers into the fold.
Food shows and weight loss shows can offer advertisers many more product integration opportunities than scripted soap operas. In that regard, both CBS, with one season of The Talk under its belt, and ABC with its two new shows, will go into the upfront with an opportunity to diversity and boost ad revenue.
The entire broadcast network daytime daypart could also see some more ad dollar interest in the upfront this year because the Oprah Winfrey Show is now gone from syndication.
For ABC, The Chew, produced by Gordon Eliot and hosted by noted chef Mario Batalli, nutrition expert Daphne Oz, Carla Hall of Top Chef, fashion expert Clinton Kelly and restaurateur Michael Symon, will premiere in September, while The Revolution, produced by JD Roth, who has similar duties on in NBC primetime, will premiere in January 2012.
All My Children has a median age audience of 57, while One Live to Live has a median age of 56.
"Frankly, some of our clients had began refusing to advertise in the soaps," says an ABC executive who did not want to speak for attribution. "We're hoping to reach a more contemporary audience with these new shows. We believe there are women 18-34 available in the daytime. It's just been that cable has done a better job than broadcast of attracting them. We hope these shows will do that."
Brad Adgate, head of research at Horizon Media, says, "From an advertising point of view, you can't go wrong with food. There will always been a slew of advertisers."
One media agency exec who attended the ABC presentation called it "impressive," adding that both shows have "producers with good track records, solid hosts and seem to have good production value. The soaps were dying. This will be a better opportunity for advertisers and the network to sell in the upfront."
While one media buyer believes that much of the ad dollars formerly going to Oprah will transfer to other syndicated shows, he does see most of the dollars from the cancelled soaps staying with the broadcast networks.
A continued selling point for the broadcast networks in daytime is that their advertising is significantly cheaper than primetime, and while primetime has a greater percentage of female viewers than male, daytime has virtually all women, making it much easier to target them at a lower cost.
Because the number of hours of daytime programming actually produced by the Big Three broadcast networks is relatively small-with them sharing the daypart with syndicated programming bought by their affiliates-inventory usually becomes tight in the upfront and daytime is relatively easy to sell out. In the case of NBC, other than its one soap, Days of Our Lives, and its extended Today show into late morning, it has little daytime inventory of it's own to sell. However, some of the syndicated programming carried by its affiliates is from NBCU-owned studios.
Advertiser demand in the upfront for daytime will always be there. "In the end, it may not really be about the shows themselves, but about the price and the concentration of women," one buyer says. "As long as it's priced right, it will sell out in the upfront across all the broadcast networks. For advertisers that want to reach women, daytime on broadcast is a source of efficiency that is irreplaceable."