Soaps Remain the Main Event at Daytime Emmys

Daytime dramas are fewer in number but hanging tough in ratings

Like sands through the hourglass, the heyday of the soap opera has slipped away. Not that you’d be able to tell at the Daytime Emmys.

Not since 1953 has there been so few soaps on the air, with only four airing on broadcast television — CBS’ “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” and ABC’s General Hospital.

The decline would seem to signal a change in the configuration of the Daytime Emmys from a soap star-studded fan draw to a less showy industry event honoring unscripted TV.

But the soaps’ twist is this — they still take a backseat to no one come kudo night.

According to TV Guide soap journalist Michael Logan, last year there was talk of changing the awards lineup to reflect daytime drama’s diminished status. Traditionally, the final prestige spot belonged to drama series. With the heavy ratings war between “Good Morning America” and “Today,” there was a rumor the final category would be for morning programming.

“But it never happened,” Logan says. “The soaps took over the show like they always do. Those are the fans who always show up and scream for their stars.”

While this year’s program has not yet been set, Daytime Emmys senior exec director David Michaels says he doesn’t see that traditional lineup changing. And CBS senior veep of daytime Angelica McDaniel says it makes sense that soaps still get top billing when it comes to the awards show — not that other programs should be ignored.

“The daytime fan base comes from all the genres,” Michaels says. “We have a Facebook page, and it’s not just the soap fans. The games and talkshows have some pretty rabid fans too. But there’s no fans like soap fans.”

Says McDaniel: “I think (soaps) will always have a big presence at the awards and will bring the glamor and allure of their stars. But (viewers) also want to see other people out of the element of their shows, to see that fish-out-of-water story that you’ll only know about if you watch.”

Though there are fewer soaps on broadcast, the ones that remain have an impact. “General Hospital,” which is experiencing a resurgence, turns 50 this year. And CBS is boasting success with both daytime dramas.

“When everyone was screaming that daytime soaps were dying, we’ve been having viewer increases for well over a year,” says McDaniel. “I think four is a sweet spot for dramas.”

What would be even sweeter for the Daytime Emmys would be if they could recapture the glory days of years gone by. The kudocast has gone from primetime on network television to last year’s airing on basic cable’s HLN Channel, as daytime drama ratings slipped and public interest waned. Despite assertions that the issue would be resolved sooner, the Daytime Emmys does not have a 2013 television home right now.

The awards show once filled such big venues as Radio City Music Hall and the Dolby Theater. And many attribute that to the huge popularity of the soaps, which numbered as high as 19 on the air during the 1969-70 season.

“I remember my first Daytime Emmy awards,” says Ellen exec producer Mary Connelly, “walking into Radio City Music Hall, and in the orchestra were the industry people and the top balcony held the fans. When the soap stars got up, it was like the Beatles entered the building. I’ll never forget the power of the soap stars.”

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