Long-running soap to air finale in September

“As the World Turns” won’t do so much longer, as daytime TV continues its march away from scripted sudsers.

CBS confirmed Tuesday that “ATWT” would end its run next September, after 54 years and more than 13,000 episodes.

“ATWT” reps the last soap opera at the networks to be produced by the once-pro-lific production arm of Procter and Gamble. CBS recently ended the run of another P&G sudser, “Guiding Light.”

“We are disappointed and saddened by the news that the show is not being renewed,” said exec producer Chris Goutman. “It will certainly be a loss for all of us, and for the show’s loyal audience.”

In a statement, Procter and Gamble’s TeleNext Media said it would explore finding a new home for the show.

“We are proactively seeking a new outlet to carry the show, and are open to exploring innovative formats and relationships that will enable the future success of ‘ATWT,’?” said TeleNext media senior VP/managing director Brian T. Cahill.

But as with its attempts to keep “Guiding Light” on the air, the company may find it difficult to keep “ATWT” alive.

The networks have been downsizing their stable of daytime dramas in recent years while also dramatically cutting their remaining shows’ budgets.

With “ATWT” gone, just one daytime sudser will still be produced in New York: ABC’s “One Life to Live,” which itself has been on the bubble for some time. (ABC recently moved its other New York soap, “All My Children,” to Los Angeles.)

Although “ATWT” will end its run, the Eye won’t give up the timeslot to affiliates. As it did with the “Guiding Light” slot, the network will look at replacing the soap with either a talkshow or a gamer.

CBS was likely emboldened to yank “ATWT” after its post- “Guiding Light” success with “Let’s Make a Deal.” That gameshow costs a fraction of what it took to produce “GL,” and has improved the timeslot’s ratings by 5%.

Nonetheless, CBS execs said it was a tough call to cancel an institution like “ATWT,” particularly after more than five decades on the air.

“The almanacs will show ‘As the World Turns’ as a pioneer of the format, a hallmark for quality with its numerous Emmys, the launching pad for many television and film stars and a daytime ratings powerhouse for parts of three decades,” said CBS daytime senior VP Barbara Bloom.

“ATWT” has received 58 Daytime Emmy awards through the years, and helped launch the careers of thesps including Dana Delaney, James Earl Jones, Parker Posey, Meg Ryan and Marisa Tomei.

The show debuted April 2, 1956, as a half-hour sudser, moving to an hour in 1975. Show also spawned the primetime spinoff “Our Private World,” which ran briefly in summer 1965. Irna Phillips created “ATWT.”

Separately, insiders confirmed that another daytime entry will shut down soon: “The Bonnie Hunt Show” will complete its two-year run in May. Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution is behind the strip, which airs on NBC stations in the major markets. Hunt informed her staff of the news Monday.

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