NBC-TV Trying an Hour-Long Daytime; Proliferation Is Noted
by Les Brown
New York Times
October 19, 1974
When daytime soap operas moved from radio to television in the early nineteen-fifties, they retained the accustomed 15-minute format. In 1956, the networks found 30 minutes to be more suitable. Now, NBC-TV is preparing to expand one of its long-running daytime serials, ANOTHER WORLD, to a full hour every day, beginning next Jan. 6.
If the innovation proves successful, NBC program executives expect that other serials will adopt the 60-minute format and that it will become standard for daytime melodrama. NBC also plans to experiment with a one-hour episode of its other soap operas, DAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE DOCTORS.
The serials - which came to be called soap operas in the radio era because they were favored advertising vehicles for soap companies - have diminished in number in recent years because game shows have proved to be more popular with women in the 18-49 age group that advertisers of supermarket products are most eager to reach.
Lin Bolen, vice president of daytime programs for NBC-TV, acknowledged that the network was violating an old show business principle by tampering with a hit, but she said the 10-year old serial was being expanded in hopes of rejuvenating the entire genre.
She pointed out that during the last five years, despite numerous attempts to establish new daytime serials, only one, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, on CBS-TV, has developed into a success.
Proliferation Is Noted
Soap operas require 18 months to two years on the air to prove themselves, while game shows succeed or fail in a matter of weeks, Miss Bolen noted. She cited this as the reason for proliferation of quiz and panel shows on daytime television.
The NBC schedule has seven game shows in a row, followed by five serials. Two of the serials, HOW TO SURVIVE A MARRIAGE and SOMERSET are not hits by commercial television standards, and one of them will be canceled to allow for the expansion of ANOTHER WORLD, Miss Bolen indicated.
"We are reasonably convinced that the daytime viewers have become more sophisticated in recent years and that what formerly satisfied them in the 30-minute sketch form no longer does," she said. "A complaint has been that the stories progress too slowly, that too little happens from day to day."
The 60-minute form would facilitate both story and character development, and the longer scenes will be played out in a single episode instead of being strung over several days, she added.
"To make serials interesting, we have to do something daring," Miss Bolen said. "I hope this is the coming thing."
The case for the longer soap opera was made on May 3 when NBC offered a special one-hour edition of ANOTHER WORLD in celebration of its 10th anniversary on the air. The episode scored the highest Neilsen rating of any daytime program that week.
The serial is packaged, and sponsored, by Procter & Gamble and is taped at the NBC studios in Brooklyn. Among its regular featured players are Jacqueline Courtney, Irene Dailey, Hugh Marlowe, Beverly Penberthy, George Reinholt and Michael M. Ryan.