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Daytime Emmys Look For Alternatives As Soap Bubble Bursts

There are four network daytime dramas left. In a year, or two, or five, it’s conceivable there could be fewer; it’s unlikely there’ll be more.

The Daytime Emmy Awards depend heavily on the daytime dramas, both for the glamour of the actors on the red carpet and for the fervent loyalty of their fans. Without soaps, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) might still give out awards, but it would have a hard time attracting an audience to the kudocast itself, the 42nd edition of which takes place on April 26 (with the nominations announced March 26).

“To me it really depends on if there’s still going to be soap operas, because that’s the engine that drives it,” says Brad Adgate, senior vice president, research, at agency Horizon Media. “Otherwise, why bother? I don’t think they could lose another soap opera and keep the show going, based on the fact that that’s the glamour part of the show.

“You go back 10 years ago, and there were probably close to a dozen or 10 soap operas. There are four now. There’s one on each network, and two on CBS. The success of the show is either that the soap-opera format, at the very least, stays where it is — in other words, no more cancellations — or they find some other way to keep viewers engaged and create some excitement in other categories or program types.”

These issues haven’t escaped the notice of David Michaels, NATAS’ senior executive director, Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards. Asked about the dearth of dramas, Michaels says: “I can tell you we have our mainstream soap category, which indeed only has four shows eligible this year, but then we also have a category for the Web soaps.

“We have also added a category for the talent in the Web soaps. Although some of them would be new faces to our audience, some of them are bona-fide soap stars who are now doing these Web series.”

Online sudsers in contention this year include Los Angeles-based “DeVanity” (a nominee last year), the Boston-set lesbian romance “Beacon Hill” starring Alicia Minshew and Sarah Brown, and season three of “The Bay,” which features numerous network soap alums.

“In that category, I would predict we would have to spread it out,” Michaels says of honoring thesps on emerging platforms. “We only have one category this year, but we’re going to at least (split the acting category into) male and female for next year, because the response was bigger than expected.”

While traditional daytime dramas are on the wane, telenovelas and other foreign-produced serials are on the rise. But don’t expect to see them joining the Daytime Emmy Awards unless changes are made.

“As we understand it, those are considered foreign productions, which means that we have to give them over to the Intl. Emmys,” Michaels says. “We have Spanish-language categories now, and there’s also a rule that a show can be in any language as long as it’s subtitled, but it has to be an American production or, at least, an American co-production.”

Meantime, the Primetime Emmy Awards has seen an influx of shows from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. Since they’re Web-based, they can be viewed anytime, which raises the question of why they’re part of the Primetime broadcast.

“When something is on the Internet and you can’t really say a time, the two academies usually make that decision by genre,” Michaels says. “So, if something is a soap opera on Netflix, then it would go to us for Daytime. If something is a sitcom on Netflix, it would go to Primetime.”

The streaming services are represented in the Daytime Emmy Awards in other categories, such as children’s programming, but asked if Netflix or Amazon would ever produce an original, traditional soap opera, Michaels says, “It’s the best idea I’ve heard this month.”

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