Daytime Soaps Enjoy a New Surge in Popularity

Daytime Soaps Enjoy New Surge Popularity

The soap bubble that was supposed to burst is still very much intact.

A couple of years after “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” brought to five the number of daytime dramas axed by the networks over a five-year stretch, the genre is flourishing.

Ratings are up at the four remaining soaps — “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” on CBS, “General Hospital” on ABC and “Days of Our Lives” on NBC — and, in this DVR era, any kind of gain is cause for celebration.

One reason for the increases could be the simple fact that there are fewer shows to compete for the pool of fans. Today’s soaps live alongside game and talkshows such as CBS’ “Let’s Make a Deal” and ABC’s “The Chew,” and a bigger variety of programming for viewers to choose from seems to be helping all the networks.

But if it were simply the same viewers moving from one show to another, the gains would be only among the core, older soap opera fan base — and that’s not the case. It’s clear that some new blood is being pumped into the genre.

“General Hospital,” for example, has grown from last year by 9% in total viewership (to 3.32 million) but it’s also up by 19% in women 25-54 and by 11% among those 12-34, according to Nielsen. As a result, its median age of 55.5 for the current season is down from 56.1 a year ago.

“Days of Our Lives” is up 10% (to about 3 million viewers), but its biggest gains are among females 12-34; its median age of 57.8 is nearly one full year lower than last year.

It’s this expansion of the audience that most encourages Michael Maloney, a contributing editor for Soaps in Depth magazine and the author of “The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell.”

“The grandmother used to pass it down to the mother and so on, so one of the reasons (that soaps) took a hit is because mom is out there working,” Maloney says. “But that seems to be coming back, and audiences are responding to a multiple-generation canvas of characters. Any soap that has just young people isn’t going to make it.”

Maloney thinks the recent shuttering of some soaps created a surplus of good actors out of work. And this has resulted in some all-star rosters.

Indeed, turn on a soap you remember watching years ago, and there’s a good chance you will see a lot of familiar faces.

“Soap is the only genre with that kind of throughline, and the shows are taking good advantage of that,” Maloney says.

The CBS soaps skew older, but they’re also the most popular overall. “Young and the Restless” averages 5.3 million viewers daily and “The Bold and the Beautiful” bags nearly 4 million.

Maloney credits Angelica McDaniel, head of Daytime at CBS, who is active in social media and “a great cheerleader for the genre.”

He also notes that Vicki Dummer, an exec VP of series and specials at ABC Media Group, has been supportive of the strong vision of “GH” exec producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati. And Sony Pictures Television, NBC and Corday Productions have kept “Days” vital even though it is on a daytime island at the Peacock.

“What the soaps seem to have is terrific support from the network,” Maloney says. “The right people are running them, and each of the remaining shows are doing a great version of their show for their
core audience.”

Maloney thinks it’s unlikely we’ll see a new daytime soap anytime soon, but he doesn’t rule it out entirely.

“There are Web soaps out there like ‘The Bay,’ and with ‘Beacon Hill,’ Crystal Chappell has a handle on a Web series that can make a profit,” he says. “People in broadcast are definitely keeping an eye on the Web.”

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  1. 5.5 million for a night time show would kill it…

  2. Kimi says:

    Thanks for this article. Great news for the soap opera fans!

  3. Wendy says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again , soaps aren’t dead they’ve just been on hiatus , break time is over the reality / talk show genres are tired , and wayyyyy over rated , soaps are very much alive , with some of the best writing , directing and acting daytime has ever seen . As a fan of GH for over 25 years , I’m am thrilled to read articles like this one!! Oh … And yes , I believe there are more soaps on the way !!!!!!!

  4. Cassie Hicks says:

    This is the best article I’ve ever read. And, if that’s possible, we may have “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” back on air to make this genre totally complete.(:

  5. Mike says:

    We don’t need anymore soaps back right now. We need to concentrate on the four soaps we have now. Building their audiences and getting their budgets up. All you are going to day by bringing more soaps back is distribute the viewers by making them choose between soaps to watch live. The live ratings will go down again and the budgets will get cut more. And eventually we will just lose more soaps. Fans got OLTL and AMC back again — both online and on TV (on OWN) where they had asked for them to be at when they got cancelled. Even crucified Oprah for not doing it then. Did they support them? Some did but not enough to make them a success. So they had their chance. It was a failure. Support the 4 we have and hopefully later we can get new soaps.

    • Kimi says:

      Mike ITA to a point. By the time AMC & OLTL fans got what they asked – even begged – for, it was 2+ years after the fact and the audience and opportunity were lost. That’s not the fans’ fault. Had there been a rollout within the first year as promised & fans expected both shows in both formats would’ve gotten more support. Although I did support the web versions of AMC & OLTL, I initially got tired of hoping and waiting for them to return and had already moved on to Y&R and B&B while continuing to watch GH.

      But I do agree we should support the shows currently airing and not go back to diluting the airwaves for the time being.

  6. Father Time says:

    Is Days of our Lives Nick really going to attack Sonny?

  7. Fox says:

    Is it really a net gain in viewers? Or did a large percentage of the viewers who used to watch the shows on SoapNet just return to the broadcast network venues (ABC CBS and NBC) over the course of last year as SoapNet slowly and finally) closed down? I mean – those approximately 700,000+ viewers that Y&R used to draw on SoapNet had to go somewhere, and I doubt they all followed the show to TVGN. Same issue, different numbers for Days and GH, which were also repurposed on SoapNet.

  8. jackrap says:

    The reason for the increase in viewership is because in America’s worsening economy- NOBODY can find a job and less and less can afford cable- soooo they sit home and watch soap operas as they contemplate their own suicides.

  9. Nick says:

    Days of our Lives is the best and always will be…Thank you NBC for supporting it as much as you have!

  10. Rosemarie says:

    Thank you for your excellent article on the resurgence of soap operas! As a lifelong ABC Daytime fan, I am particularly thrilled to hear that ”General Hospital” is continuing to thrive and sincerely hope that ”All My Children” and ”One Life to Live” will return to the airwaves one day soon.

  11. charcramer says:

    Now is the time to bring back One Life to Live! It is the best soap on television and was more popular than ever when ABC canceled it. I know ABC realizes they made a mistake. They need to start working not to bring One Life to Live back to ABC.

  12. Brian says:

    It’s good that the numbers are up. Now they just need to bring back One Life To Live. It was criminal that ABC cancelled it. The shows numbers were climbing when they cancelled it. Hate it when some people talk about it as an under achiever. It wasn’t.

  13. coolrepublica says:

    I am surprise by the resurgence. I was sure people have moved on. All those,actors need jobs so any move in a positive direction is welcome.

    For people looking for something different may I recommend korean dramas. I am watching something called Bride of the Century right now and I find them a bit more interesting than soap opera. I am spared watching Stephano die and come back for the 100th time.

  14. Jeff says:

    Bring back As The World Turns please.

  15. Soapstef says:

    For us lifelong soap fans…that’s great news! B&B gets my vote for Most Improved since adding a few new characters and recasting Ridge. Hope as the central female is wonderful as well. She’s the future of the show.

  16. RedRiver says:

    The genre has made a comeback of sorts, but eventually, they’ll all be history. Too expensive to produce with too small of a profit. The economics will be the death of them. Five more years, if they are lucky. They need to develop new talent, the leads on these shows are in their 60’s and 70’s.

    • janice says:

      bologna! there are a few older cast members, but the soaps are infused with new younger talent. We need BOTH….evidently you don’t really watch!

  17. Rhonda Holler Tuzzio says:

    I want AMC back so badly!!!

  18. Karim El Masri says:

    The Soaps we have now are perfect but we need OLTL and AMC BACK TO COMPLETE DAYTIME AGAIN

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