New Dawn For Daytime. And ONE LIFE TO LIVE?

There was an interesting article by Joanne Ostrow published in Sunday's Denver Post about the changing landscape of daytime television. Here are some of the more interesting excerpts from the story.

"The serial is our chosen form of dramatic entertainment," TV Guide's Logan said over the phone last week. "Most reality fits into it, as well. The cliffhanger, the catfights, from AMERICAN IDOL to SURVIVOR to THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL it's all coming in the same kind of stew pot now."

This isn't new, but very true. Almost everything is serialized now, and most of the non-daytime soaps are based more on human emotions more the cliched soap staples of back from the dead characters, evil twins, etc. Daytime soaps have the opportunity to explore current issues in a way no other medium can but they mostly don't seem interested.

Some mourned the passing of the ancient soaps, despite their questionable quality. As a defender of daytime TV, Logan sees irony in the buzz for such shows as MAD MEN, which draws some 2 million viewers a week on AMC, while AS THE WORLD TURNS was cancelled with 2.5 million watching five days a week.

We say this all the time. This is one reason why WE LOVE SOAPS TV posts ratings for all soaps together - daytime, primetime and cable. It's interesting to hear reports of daytime dying, yet ABC Family, The CW and AMC Network all tout successful series with the same or worse ratings.

ABC owns its soaps, unlike the CBS relationship with P&G. ABC's ONE LIFE TO LIVE is soon to announce a deal to live two more years.

We haven't received confirmation from ABC on this one. In the past they have said their don't "renew" their soaps because they own them. Despite the inconsistent writing and poor behind the scenes decisions this year on the show, as long as it is on the air, there is a chance to regain its former glory.

Eventually, and probably not on broadcast television, someone is going to take a chance on a modern variation on the daytime soap and it will become a hit. Perhaps this will be a television version of an indie web soap, or maybe some brand new program. Either way, as soon as it happens, other networks will copy it and a resurgence will begin. It isn't likely to be five hours a week again, but whatever it is, audiences will always be drawn to well-written serial stories.

3 comments:

  1. But let's add one point of clarification. Mad Men can sustain itself on an anemic number of total viewers because:

    - network is SUBSCRIBER supported and advertiser supported

    - program skews well in desirable demographic, and thus procures premium ad revenues

    - network takes some loss because their network promos that run DURING Mad Men (and their other first-run shows) build the network

    - related, critical buzz for the show helps build the AMC brand

    - ability to offset initial losses with DVD and international sales

    None of these four elements are true for the daytime soaps.

    Because the daytime soaps have only advertiser revenues, and because they bring in a viewership that is neither young nor drawing of "premium" advertisers (think feature films or BMWs), and because they provide ZERO critical buzz for the network, they have very very little value at this point.

    The only reason the soaps continue, I think is:

    - the absence of alternatives

    - networks being unwilling to give the daypart back to local affiliates

    - some ability to keep show costs down for the network (esp. CBS/NBC) by reduced license fees -- afforded by international distribution

    - some fear of p*ssing off loyal older viewers...although this is not a major consideration

    Not all viewers are the same. There are lessons to be learned from AMC, HBO, Showtime, A&E, USA, etc:

    - get a subscriber basis

    - reduce the frequency of broadcast, and produce a smaller number of higher quality episodes; weekly in the evening seems essential

    - related to the above, make the show PREMIUM enough that there are SERIOUS international dollars and DVD sales

    I will note, again, that the daily "discount" serial still seems to work everywhere else in the world...UK, Germany, Canada (Y&R, and more recently Degrassi), The Netherlands, and the Latin-American telenovelas are all strong examples. But this has happened by running the daily shows in early prime, and nurturing them as an intergenerational habit. It is a serious question to me whether any US non-subscriber network has the patience to build such a brand again. We don't do intergenerational viewing anymore, and the local affiliates own the critical early-prime timeslot.

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  2. 5 of the 6 daytime soaps air on SOAPnet so there is some subscriber cable money there, though probably not much. Those shows air several times each per week. It was another half million viewers for some each night in primetime with a great young female audience.

    A lot of money making opportunities and chances for buzz are ignored by the daytime soaps and the PR departments. You used to see soap stars in magazines not related to soaps but not anymore.

    If the broadcast networks are going to keep soaps, it will probably be the ones their own.

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  3. I had posted on Datalounge awhile back when everyone was going crazy about the possibility of OLTL being crazy that I had heard from an ABC insider that they were giving OLTL two years to raise the ratings before cancellation.

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