Soap operas have always been the cornerstone of the Daytime Emmys, but with only six daytime dramas left, how long can that last?

At the very least, the Natl. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences could explore having fewer candidates in some of the soap categories. While five has been the standard number of noms in each acting category, some feel that number should be lower because the genre has dropped three serials in recent years.

“They do need to change,” says Peter Bergman, a three-time Daytime Emmy lead actor winner for his role on “The Young and the Restless” as Jack Abbott. “You can’t have five (nominees) with only six shows. If you do, you may as well throw one from every show in.”

Another option is to do away with the younger leading actor and actress categories, which were created in 1985, and have those candidates compete against older counterparts in either lead or supporting groups.

“I don’t think there should be younger actor or actress categories,” says Christian Jules LeBlanc, a three-time Daytime Emmy winner for his role on “Restless” as Michael Baldwin. “If you’re that good, then you can be up there with (older actors), the way Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense”) and Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) have been at the Oscars.”

“Days of our Lives” exec producer Ken Corday argues for retaining separate categories and ensuring “there will be more awards to give out.”

Past younger leading actress winners and nominees include Julianne Moore, Anne Heche, Melissa Leo and Robin Wright. Younger leading actor winners are arguably less notable. A few, in fact, have been recast by their soaps even after winning Emmy gold.

An award that could be reinstated and that would reflect a growing trend in soaps is the guest performer category, for notable primetime, film and stage actors who’ve been dropping into daytime with regularity, including James Franco (“General Hospital”) and Betty White (“The Bold and the Beautiful”).

“I think I screwed it up for (the academy),” chuckles John Wesley Shipp, an actor best known for his runs on “Guiding Light,” “As the World Turns,” and, more recently, “One Life to Live.” Shipp competed in and won the guest star category (for a short-term role he performed on “Santa Barbara”) at the 1987 Daytime Emmys over Oscar winners Celeste Holm and Eileen Heckart and Broadway actor Terrance Mann.

“The academy may have felt that this category would add star power to the Emmy telecast,” Shipp theorizes. “If it wasn’t going to achieve that, then it went away.”

NATAS has already made one change to reflect industry changes. A special class short format program category now exists in which Web soap operas can compete.

However, some find the nominations problematic. Gregori Martin, creator/executive producer of “The Bay,” won’t be going up against Web series “Steamboat,” which has been deemed a comedy and, therefore, ineligible.

“It has the same type of formula as ‘The Bay,’ ” Martin says. “If you have soap actors on it, which ‘Steamboat’ does, then it shouldn’t matter if you’re a comedy or a drama. Good content is good content.”

More from the Daytime Emmy Preview:
Cable light on daytime talk triumphs | ‘The Talk’ seeks to stand alone | Fewer soaps, fewer awards?