Friday, September 12, 2008

Soap Ratings - Men vs Women

When looking at the ratings for last week, it is interesting to note that if you add the total viewers up for all shows you have over 23 million viewers. There is audience out there craving continuing drama, and even though many people now get their "fix" in prime time, there is nothing like the characterizations you can get from daytime soaps. Just imagine the ratings potential if the remaining daytime soaps were consistently good.

We hear a lot about the "demos" and how the networks are obsessed with the Women 18-49 demographic (which includes the Women 18-34 demo). Last week, this segment of soap viewers accounted for 27% of the total viewers across the board. That's just over one in four. So if this is the group the shows are supposedly being written for, what about the other fans?

As you can see from the table below, male viewers 18 and older accounted for 22% of total viewers. This demo is almost equal to Women 18-49 but yet gets overlooked by the show's producers, writers and sponsors.

What's interesting to note is that GENERAL HOSPITAL, known for mobsters and explosive drama, is the show with the smallest percentage of male viewers (it has the highest number of viewers in the Women 18-49 demo).

Also, if you look at the shows with the most total viewers, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, you'll see they each have a higher percentage of Men 18+ viewers than Women 18-49. Those male viewers are critical to the success of both shows.

Teen viewership (Girls 12-17) is so small it barely even registers. ONE LIFE TO LIVE was #1 last week with 25,000 teen girls watching.

So who is left? We've accounted for men over 18 and women under 49. That leaves female viewers over 50. This is the primary audience watching soaps today. These are the most loyal viewers. These tend to be viewers that care about the histories of these shows. If the daytime soaps want to continue and remain profitable enough to hang on until "something" turns this around (as Casiello said in his blog - hopefully the next Bill Bell or Agnes Nixon will come along), these viewers are giong to have to be respected and the shows are going to have to focus on things these people care about.

Of course, they could always just start writing good character-driven stories that make sense and don't insult the audience's intelligence which would appeal to "all" the demos. Good storytelling is ageless.


  1. My goodness, this is a remarkable analysis. Your point about the proportion of male viewers was truly eye opening.

    You mention that women 50+ are the fastest falling group. I would be nice to see some comparative rating data regarding that demographic over the last 5 years. If you have it, I would sure love to do the analysis comparing the decline rates.

    The irony, of course, is this: For as long as advertisers are focused on 18-39 or 18-49, DO THEY EVEN CARE about lost ratings...if the ratings are due to "old farts"? Sadly...I suspect not.

  2. Mark, I would love to have a further breakdown of the ratings like how many minorities are watching, what is the average income level of each soap's viewers and a breakdown by big cities (and many more).

    Every show could have the same number of viewers but the demographic breakdown will determine the ad dollars. It's not all just young women. I think soaps could survive by going after a niche of viewers but they are are running off a very outdated model.

  3. roger -- what's the source on these data? do you have access to more demographic detail -- education, income, employment etc?

    i just took a look at my 1996 soap opera weekly piece (the data were from 1994). to answer a bit of mark's question, the overall male viewership of soaps back then (didn't have it broken out against age) was 26%.