Network Soaps Battling Tough to Stay Alive

TV Ratings: Networks Cleaning Up Again

Each of the remaining broadcast daytime dramas has improved its ratings this year

Don’t plan on anyone popping the daytime soap bubble anytime soon.

There may only be four left on ABC, CBS and NBC, but they are holding onto their audience. In fact, for the first time in memory, each of these shows — which have been around for a combined 144 years — actually posted quarterly ratings gains vs. the previous year.

The simple fact that there are fewer dramas fighting for the afternoon audience, and not many half-hours where the current shows overlap, is likely a contributing factor.

But these improvements in daytime come at a time when a pair of former daytime soaps, “All My Children” and “One Live to Live,” have found second lives online. Also, serialized programming has never been hotter in primetime — from reality programs across the dial to the hottest scripted dramas like “The Walking Dead,” “Downton Abbey” and “Scandal.”

SEE MORE: Inside the Online Revival of ‘All My Children,’ ‘One Life to Live’

Looking at the most current Nielsen numbers for the second quarter of 2013 (April 1-June 30), CBS’ longtime daytime leader “Young and the Restless” led the pack with an average daily audience of 4.771 million — up 5% from last year. It’s followed in the rankings by CBS’ “Bold and the Beautiful” (3.535 million, up 13% from last year), ABC’s “General Hospital” (2.843 million, up 11%) and NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” (2.672 million, up 4%).

Collectively, these four shows also drew more viewers this spring (13.82 million) than the same period in 2011 (13.27 million), with only “Y&R” down.

“General Hospital,” which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and is the oldest of the remaining daytime soaps, has been on the upswing in recent quarters and is at its highest levels since “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” were still airing in the hours preceding it as part of a three-soap ABC lineup.

In fact, this spring marked the third straight quarter that “GH” has risen by double-digit percentages from the comparable year-ago period.

For “Bold and the Beautiful” (pictured above), this spring was the fourth straight quarter (going back to the third quarter of 2012) that it posted year-over-year growth. It is now within a little more than 1.2 million of its lead-in, “Young and the Restless,” which has been on top of the soap ratings heap since 1987.

“B&B” has also grown year-over-year in the key women 18-49 demo for four straight quarters.

“Days of Our Lives,” which recently won the Daytime Emmy for drama series for the first time in 35 years, logged its second best quarter in adults 18-49 since the first quarter of 2012 and its second largest overall audience for a quarter in at least two years.

Earlier this year, “Days” was renewed by NBC through September 2014, and it could be poised for another extension — especially since 2015 would mark the show’s 50th anniversary.

While nobody should confuse the current era of soaps for its heyday of the ’80s and ’90s, any ratings growth these days is noteworthy — as is survival. And this year, for the first time since 2007, none of the broadcast dramas will be saying goodbye.

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  1. betty peagler says:

    I stop watching gh a long time ago and started watching bold and beautiful which I continue to watch it is very good and appealing the storylines are interesting and make you want to keep watching so does young and the restless.

  2. Elizabeth Gilbert says:

    Great news on the ratings. i started watching soaps in my early teens with my mom. thats a long time. lol. it.s part of north america.s daily lives. G.H. is the one i watch and have been since the 80’s. it broke my heart to see the others go. Thanks for all the hard work and dedication all four remaining soaps are doing to stay afloat and every one keep watching. Love my G.H. here in ontario.

  3. D says:

    Frank, your going about GH the wrong way, There are so many fan’s that don;t want to watch anymore.

  4. Lynn says:

    I think GH is the best it’s been in years. They are utilizing more actors, the writing is excellent. Storylines move faster and make me reluctant to miss an episode. I am watching again after ignoring it’s tediousness for ages….

  5. john elkington says:

    GH must make a strong move to maintain its momentum by firming up the writing. The show has been rapidly losing ground with viewers over the past few months. FV needs to listen to viewers and take their comments into consideration. The “big 3” are not working in their new roles.

  6. sands of time says:

    Days of our Lives is doing way better than the ratings indicate!

  7. RedRiver says:

    Y&R got rid of the horrible Executive Producer Maria Arena Bell late last year and had been on an upswing under Josh Griffith’s writing, but Executive Producer Jill Farren Phelps has begun to flood the show with new faces, including her pet, Steve Burton, from her former soap, General Hospital. Soap boards are in meltdown by fans angry over her recent decisions to dump vets on the show. This was a direct cause for long time Y&R actress Michelle Stafford’s exit. If Phleps continues down this path, Y&R will lag behind the other soap’s in growth and may see declines as its core audience abandons the show. CBS and Sony should step in and correct course before more damage is done to their flagship daytime show.

  8. betty peagler says:

    love bold and the beautiful very disappointed they let steffys baby die I almost stopped watching all I thought was how could they and I also like liam and steffy as a beautiful young couple. you do not see that to much in daytime tv I donot lik hope because she seems so pathetic and needy and hope for the fu ture the logans are hoes adulters and liars and I think hope not one now but maybe later I love young and the restless I have been watching for 20 years they are both very good shows and better all the time for bold and beautiful to get rid of a lot of people who have been there for a long time is crazy and will be missed. why? they will loose viewers a lot of people on b and b facebook page said so you should read for yourself.

  9. Fern says:

    GH’s ratings are actually lower than OLTL’s were before the latter was cancelled. GH’s ratings are actually at an all time low when you consider that it’s the only horse left in the race. Fans are turning out in droves due to the deplorable writing.

  10. Libby burns says:

    Love love love my Y&R and Bold cannot live without it

  11. A.J. says:

    Rather than cancel All My Children and One Life To Live, the latter of which reportedly came in under budget and posted gains in ratings years before it was cancelled, ABC could’ve just reduced them to a half hour because there are audiences for both shows. I find it hard to believe that people don’t want scripted television/daytime serials. Unfortunately ABC also failed to really promote it soaps and allowed bad decision making including horrible head writers to re-write the history of the shows they led particularly All My Children which could’ve been why the ratings dropped. ABC also failed to exploit both shows as well. I am also annoyed at how the media fell asleep at the wheels re: soaps as well.

    I understand when Oprah decided to end her show ABC probably wanted to take advantage of this change to revamp its daytime lineup by ending the soaps and adding The Chew, Revolution and Katie, but that just shows how out of touch daytime execs are.

    I do hope that daytime gets the respect it deserves by the return of the Daytime Emmys to a major network as if their primetime programming was so innovative and must-see as it is that the Daytime Emmys can only be aired on HLN, especially when the Emmys benefit all the networks that have original daytime programming. Who decided that the Daytime Emmys were no longer profitable and why did they decide to disregard/slap all of the people work in that genre in the face? Why has no one in the press including publications such as Variety asked this question of the major networks? If the major networks can show numerous music award shows like the CMAs, The Billboard Awards, The Grammys, you mean to tell me no one would watch the Daytime Emmys again on NBC, ABC, FOX, or CBS??? You’ve got to be kidding.

  12. FoxCrane says:

    Mr. Kissell – Can you also give us the current Nielsen VideoCensus (online streams) these four daytime shows bring into their CBS, ABC, and NBC at their network websites per month? The last time I saw such information released was at over two years ago via an ABC press release. Y&R, DAYS, and GH were among the top performers for their nets. It would be nice to see an update to this type of information on occasion as well.

  13. Sheryl says:

    Steffy and Liam’s love story was a big pull during the Spring months. Congrats to B&B for that storyline.

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