Online skeins might be key to future

As daytime TV drops its focus on soap operas, so might the Daytime Emmys. But not yet.

A quarter-century ago, daytime audiences had 15 soap operas from which to choose, including such programs as “Ryan’s Hope,” “Search for Tomorrow” and “Another World.” Next season, with CBS ending the runs of “Guiding Light” last fall and “As the World Turns” this fall, fans will have to get their fix from the six remaining soaps: CBS’ “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and The Beautiful,” ABC’s “General Hospital,” “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” and NBC’s “Days of Our Lives.”

With fewer soaps on the air, the remaining six shows will likely just get more of the spotlight.

“The Emmys don’t really change,” says Brent Stanton, director of the Daytime Emmys for the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), which handles national awards for daytime, sports, news and documentaries. “It’s still the soaps and the related categories — performers, directing and writing – that make it on to the telecast. That’s still the main focus.

“Whenever you mention the Daytime Emmys to the general public, that’s what they think of.”

Just because fewer soap operas are airing in daytime on broadcast networks doesn’t mean the world will be bereft of them, Stanton points out.

“Next year, I’m expecting to see quite a few online, shortform soaps, and they’ll be nominated in our new online category,” he says.

Last year, Web series “Imaginary Bitches” was nominated that new category, called New Approaches. “Bitches,” about a lonely young woman who creates two imaginary friends to keep her company, also won two Webby Awards and is in development as a feature film.

Other online soap operas have their followings too, including “Gotham,” “Wed-locked,” “Empire” and “Then We Got Help!” and “Venice,” and all those Web series can throw their hats into the Emmy ring.

“We’re not tied to being platform-specific,” says Stanton. “What New Approaches really honors is integrated media and different ways of presenting programming.”

Fewer soaps doesn’t mean networks have less time to fill, so networks are injecting those soap slots with different, more economical fare, such as gameshows and news extensions. CBS gave the “Guiding Light” slot to a new version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” and NBC Universal announced it would air a one-hour celebrity news magazine, “Access Hollywood Live,” on six of its owned stations.

Those types of shows will continue to be acknowledged with their own categories, although it sometimes takes the Emmys time to design categories that accurately reflect the types of shows on the air.

Defining television is a more difficult task these days, says Stanton: “What is TV? Does it feel like TV? Does it look like TV? For us, since we’re still basically genre-specific, if it looks like a soap, it probably is.”

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