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Network Soaps Battling Tough to Stay Alive

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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