Saturday, September 3, 2011

FLASHBACK: Will 'Search' Run Out Of Tomorrows? (1981)


By Terry Ann Knopf
Boston Globe
October 30, 1981

The soap opera Search for Tomorrow is in serious danger of being canceled by CBS. The Proctor & Gamble-owned show celebrated its 30th anniversary Sept. 3, making it the oldest soap on television. Unfortunately, SEARCH has been plagued by anemic ratings in recent years and is the weakest soap opera in the CBS daytime lineup.

During the most recent Nielsen ratings, for the week of Oct. 16, CBS soaps ranked as follows: Guiding Light (No. 4), The Young and the Restless (No. 5), As the World Turns (No. 7) and Search for Tomorrow (No. 8).

CBS was the dominant network in daytime programming for 15 years but recently has fallen to second place behind ABC. As the new Grand Dame of Daytime, ABC invariably has the three top-rated shows: General Hospital, One Life to Live and All My Children.

Last May, in an attempt to improve its second-place standing, CBS shuffled virtually its entire soap opera lineup. Search was shifted from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. However, the venerable soap remains the lowest-rated on CBS and has proven to be an extremely weak lead-in to the Guiding Light.

In a last-ditch effort to save the soap, Brian Frons, CBS manager of daytime programs, is hoping that forthcoming episodes of Search, featuring expensive location footage of Hong Kong, will provide much-needed excitement, along with some adrenalin for the ratings. However, if the numbers fail to improve, there are two scenarios under way: CBS will either move the soap to the 4 p.m. graveyard time slot or simply cancel it altogether.

If the network decides to drop the show, which seems increasingly likely, Proctor & Gamble is weighing its own alternative. According to a high-level source at CBS, the owner-sponsor would like to expand Search from 30 minutes to an hour and peddle it to NBC, which in turn would cancel its low-rated soap Texas, The reasoning is that Search, rated eighth, is still stronger than any of NBC's that currently occupy the last four rungs on the rating's ladder.

As the owner-sponsor of Texas, Proctor & Gamble is in a strong bargaining position with NBC. Moreover, although the Lone Star Soap is considered a quality show, it has fared poorly in the ratings since its premiere in August 1980 and has the added misfortune to be pitted against ABC's blockbuster, General Hospital. Indeed, the most recent ratings show Texas has dropped to last place in the soap-opera sweepstakes.

If Search for Tomorrow is switched to another network, such a move would not be unprecedented. In 1975, CBS canceled THE EDGE OF NIGHT, another P&G soap, which was picked up by ABC. A decision on whether there will be any more tomorrows for Search is expected within the next several weeks.

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