Veteran soap opera gets 18-month pickup

NBC has inked a deal with Sony Pictures TV to extend its run of daytime sudser “Days of Our Lives.”

But in a sign of uncertain times for the daytime soap biz, the Peacock’s pickup runs just 18 months. The previous renewal pact between Sony and Corday Prods. had a five-year term.

NBC’s current deal for “Days of Our Lives” was set to expire in March, which means the new arrangement will keep the soap on the network only through September 2010. However, it’s understood that another year will be triggered if certain perameters on the show are met. That would keep “Days” on the air through September 2011.

Shortened renewal comes as the economics of daytime TV — particularly soap operas — continue to sour. NBC has gradually eliminated most of its daytime sudsers, most recently moving “Passions” to DirecTV (before eventually pulling the plug on that show altogether).

The reup also comes despite rumblings from NBC Universal topper Jeff Zucker a few years ago that “Days of Our Lives” might not be renewed at all. More recently, Zucker hasn’t been as vocal about a “Days” cancellation, although the short renewal could signal that NBC’s long-term daytime plans may not include sudsers.

It’s unclear whether NBC also negotiated a reduced license fee for the show. The Peacock was most recently shelling out $1.7 million-$1.8 million a week for the show.

As part of the renewal it’s understood that the show, led by exec producer Ken Corday, will be making some onscreen changes as well, including some cast shuffles.

Season-to-date “Days of Our Lives” is tied for third place in the daypart among women 18-49 and is tied as the No. 1 show in women 18-34.

SoapNet holds same-day repurposing rights for “Days,” which is also available for download via Apple’s iTunes.

The soap is celebrating its 43rd anniversary.

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