DanJKroll

ABC plans to show repeat episodes of soaps -- will other networks follow?

Rating: 3 votes, 1.00 average.
Fans of ABC soaps were recently thrown for a loop when the network announced that it would be preempting its entire soap lineup for a special three-hour marathon of classic General Hospital episodes featuring Vanessa Marcil (Brenda Barrett). While fans of General Hospital might be pleased by the trip down memory lane, fans of All My Children and One Life to Live (and also some fans of GH) have expressed anger over the network bumping new episodes of their favorite soaps for an afternoon of promoting an actress' return to the ABC lineup.

The announcement of the Brendathon came on the heels of reports that ABC is planning to show fewer original episodes of its soaps during the year. How many fewer? The network declined to offer specifics, but a published report states that the number may go as high as 20.

Is this a cost-cutting measure? Is it a way to help boost the network's ratings? Is this a sign of the impending demise of soap operas? Well, there are several ways to look at it.

Soaps air five days a week -- and some soap fans have come to take those airings for granted. If you get stuck in traffic and don't get home as planned, you know that your favorite soap will still be waiting for you the next day. Get caught up with work and taking care of the kids? Fear not. There's always tomorrow. In putting together five original episodes week in and week out, soap operas have gotten a notorious reputation for having plots that move at a snail's pace. Who hasn't heard the old joke that someone who hadn't seen an episode of their favorite soap for 20 years was able to tune in and, in the course of a few minutes, figure out exactly what was going on?

As the World Turns executive producer Christopher Goutman raised eyebrows last year when he suggested that soaps might someday only be shown three or four days each week. Of course, As the World Turns will soon be airing zero times a week. CBS announced in December 2009 that the show would go dark in September of this year.

But did Goutman have a point?

Check out any of the seven remaining soaps' ratings and you'll see that there are routinely one or two days each week when the ratings are significantly lower than the other days. In a recent ratings report, on Monday, The Bold and the Beautiful had a 2.4 rating -- and then the next day that number sank to 2.1. The three-tenths difference of a rating means that about 321,000 less people watched the Tuesday episode than the Monday episode. All those viewers were back on Wednesday, but by the end of the week they were gone again. In that same week, The Young and the Restless started the week with a 3.6 rating -- but some 450,000 viewers weren't watching on Friday. Where did they go? Isn't Friday supposed to be the big cliffhanger day? Maybe that's why more people tune in on Monday -- to see how everything will resolve itself.

The result of the fluctuating ratings means a lower overall average for a show. If a soap chose not to broadcast an episode on a day of the week when its total viewership is traditionally down, that low rating would not be factored into the overall average rating. Sure, it may only be a matter of a few hundred thousand viewers -- but we're at a point when every viewer matters.
What about giving the soaps the summer off? Would that further erode viewership because viewers would have to find something else to watch (as was the case with the OJ Simpson trial), or would fans be chomping at the bit for their soaps to pick back up in the fall? What would the networks air during the summer months? I haven't figured that out just yet. Could they air reruns? I dunno. Could they show really old episodes? Maybe.

Here's my thought process behind all of this. With soaps airing every single day, the writers don't get that chance to catch their breath and work on storylines that will really capture our attention. If they had, say, a month off… they might be able to plot out stories that wouldn't be filled with fluff or things that fans deride as untrue or unrealistic. Imagine having five days of story where every day is must-see television. I write enough content for soapcentral.com to know that some articles or columns are better than others. If I had a week off to do whatever it is that I'd be doing if I were not working, I might come back and write Shakespeare. What soap through yonder window breaks? Okay, so maybe that wouldn't work.

But finding something that does work is important for soap execs. Now's the time to get it done, because waiting any longer could be hazardous to our soaps' health.

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Updated 10-04-2010 at 12:53 AM by DanJKroll

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  1. newattitude's Avatar
    Back in the day the writers didn't need a month off to catch their breath and the stories were wonderful! They were edge of your seat make you want to run home and watch SL's. They had great characters, the stories had depth and they weren't all plot driven. Great writers could do the same today. Instead we have recycled SL's and the characters are in bubbles and some days its really hard not to fall asleep waiting for the shows to end. There is lots of filler that just isn't needed because the writers are either too lazy to come up with good stuff or don't care. Writers are writers correct? So why did they do such great work back in the 70's, 80's and even the 90's without ''getting tired?'' Maybe its the caliber of writers available today that is the problem no?

    The GH takeover really ticks me off because I'm sorry but ONE character isn't so great they need three hours of reruns to reintroduce her character and knock off the other shows. Some of the folks who watch AMC or OLTL do not watch GH and don't care about Brenda or GH itself. I can think of other characters on other soaps that returned that are more important than Brenda's return and they didn't get pimped out like she is.

    If soaps had to go to 3 or 4 days a week I would LOVE to see old shows run on the off days! How great it would be to see old SL's and characters that might not be on the shows today! I would be all for that if it meant saving my soaps.
    Updated 07-26-2010 at 10:58 AM by newattitude
  2. LoveJason's Avatar
    Personally I believe it is all the spoiler sites that have ruined it. Back in the day you actually had to watch the show if you wanted to know what was going on. Now people read the spoilers and then decide if they want to watch or not. I admit I was addicted to spoilers and then I really didn't want to watch the show or didn't find it that interesting. When I stopped reading them the excitement and the love for it just came back.
  3. martheev's Avatar
    The spoiler sites can't be completely to blame when the network is taking THREE HOURS to announce the return of a fan favorite. They ruin stuff themselves just with the promos they run. But it's all in conjuncture with one another and it isn't helping.

    Newattitude had it right mentioning great characters and stories with depth. We cared about the stories because we cared about the characters. Somewhere along the way the execs decided the Vets didn't matter. I think it all went downhill by itself from there.
    Updated 07-26-2010 at 03:42 PM by martheev (So I could sub to thread)
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  5. kenerly1's Avatar
    I would be willing for them to even have them on for 15 minutes a day if it would keep them on.
  6. Felicien's Avatar
    I never watch the reruns because why should I? I also think getting rid of the vets hurt the shows. The ratings would go up if the writing was better. For one thing, stop dragging a storyline for a long length of time because you end up getting sick of the storyline.
  7. thunderbird's Avatar
    ALL I CARE ABOUT IS ALL MY CHILDREN AND ONE LIFE TO LIVE. I GREW UP WITH THEM. I LOVE THE STORY LINES. I'M SO CRAZY THAT LIZA CAME BACK. I WANT HER SISTER MIA TO COME BACK. I MISS JEFF BARNSON WHO PLAYED JONTHAN LAVERY TO COME BACK. RYAN NEEDS HIS BROTHER TO COME BACK. I WANT LIZ VASSEY TO COME BACK TOO. I HAVEN'T SEEN HER FOR YEAR.
  8. thunderbird's Avatar
    I CAN'T EVER WANT TO LOSE ONE LIFE TO LIVE AND ALL MY CHILDREN. I REMEMBER JANET FROM ANOTHER PLANET. SHE IS FUNNY SOMETIMES. DORIAN CAN BE FUNNY TOO SOMETIMES. I LOVE ROXY SHE MORE FUNNY. AND SO IS DAVID VICKERS. HE KILLS ME. I ALSO LIVE NIGEL. HE IS SO CUTE AND SWEET. I'M A COLBY FAN. SHE IS AMAZING I LOVE SEEING HER WITH HER FAMILY. I'LL NEVER FORGET HER FEUD WITH SYNEDY HARRIS. TAYLOR GLIDDERSLEEVE. I'M A HUG JESSICA FAN AND NORA, TEA, MARTY, BO,CLINT,BLAIR.STARR, DANIELLE, SHAUN, DAVID AND CHARLIE FAN. I DON'T WANT TO LOSE THEM. I LOVE WATCHING THEM.
  9. JaspShd's Avatar
    I would hate to see my soaps go to three or four days a week but I'd rather that than lose them forever. I realize times have changed and that in the 70's their was no cable so TV viewing choices were limited. I'm actually not sure when cable entered the picture but when it did it offered more and more content to watch. Today it's crazy (in a good way) how many channels there are for viewing. I'm personally happy about that but now that we have DVRs and Tivo, we should be able to record our soaps while watching something else. Neilson Ratings acknowledges you viewing your soap if you view it within 24 hrs of recording. Sometimes I don't get to see my soaps till the weekend and they don't get counted. I wish Neilson would simply acknowledge who downloaded/recorded the show that day and not concern itself when it was viewed. I'd bet we'd see way different ratings of our soaps if they did that.
  10. ZenFan4Life's Avatar
    I honestly don't know how a month off will help a writer write a better storyline. For instance, I don't think a month off would have helped Pratt not destroy AMC. Would it mean he didn't write the horrific BoB storyline? No, because he was writing for effect/plot at the expense of character. IMO, bad writing is bad writing and a bad writer is a bad writer.

    I find the "incestuous" nature of soap writers to be a bigger problem. I mean, how many times can AMC hire a writer who has destroyed another show? We are recycling writers instead of getting new writers with new visions. I'm sure there is comfort level of hiring people who know how soaps operate but that is coming at the expense of quality.

    It's also a good point to acknowledge how they accumulate ratings since a lot of people who are watching are simply not counted given how and when they watch their soaps...DVR's, Soapnet, etc.

    I understand, though, why they would go to four days a week if the ratings are down. If it saves the soaps, why not. Why not showcase old episodes. Although that might make us realize how bad soaps are today compared to back then...lol.
  11. Witch's Avatar
    If the idea is to remove the day with the lowest rating from the average to magically make the viewer seem better, it's a stupid one. They're not even counting the viewers they do have. They simply need to do what magazines did a decade ago and demonstrate to their advertisers that for one person counted, n times as many watch.

    And do we not keep hearing how much the producers covet a younger demographic? Well if they want to attract that audience, they need to adapt their ways of counting them. The younger the audience the more likely they're watching online, so Nielsen ratings are not appropriate to measure that viewership.

    And fans are different now. Because soaps have become so archetypal, we know in advance, even without spoilers a who's the daddy storyline is coming. Did we not know weeks in advance that when Natalie had sex with Brody on OLTL that a baby was coming? Add to that the spoilers that have become so much harder to avoid, and soaps have lost the element of surprise.

    At the same time, soaps have grown a little self-conscious and refuse to write stories for the sake of emotional development of characters. If the show's point was to show me how emotionally a character is affected by the impact of this or that event in the storyline, then it wouldn't matter that the storyline's conclusion didn't come quickly enough, I'd be busy finding catharsis with the character. But if the point is "whodunit" or "willshehavelimosexwithherex?" then things don't move quickly enough to their conclusion.

    But soap writing/producing has floundered. In the scramble to find more viewers and improve the show, they have forgotten what made those shows interesting. And they are now condemned to always go bigger, faster, better, more. More special effects, more action, more outlandish characters, but always less romance and less emotion. And I find that's the problem, the writers are struggling to keep up in sensationalism, and to provide us with the fast food of entertainment, they want to give us cheap emotion instead of more fulfilling feeling.
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  13. likesGH's Avatar
    If the soaps would include flashbacks into the current storyline, they could save writing time while giving the audience some history. This would be preferable to having reruns of entire episodes.
    I love when the characters flashback to stuff a long time ago. It is such a treat to see the old characters on Days of Our Lives during a funeral of a current character, or a flashback to when two characters just met, when they are breaking up. It rewards the viewers that have watched for decades, and gives new viewers a bit of history that they can laugh about.
  14. AW FanForLife's Avatar
    I admit I didn't read all of the comments but I must say...please keep them at 1 hour and not 15 minutes...I wasn't alive in the 15 minute days of soaps so I don't know how they did it but I can't imagine even feeling like it started before it was already over...

    now I would be okay with going down to 4 days a week if the one missing day each week was filled (alternating) with old shows..like this week the missing day was all eps of all my children and next weeks day was old eps of one life to live and so on...they could use those days to rerun parts of storylines that have a shot of attracting ex-viewers and new viewers.

    but the one thing I thing will be most likely to save the soaps is for the writers to get back to a more character driven state of mind and lose some of the less interesting plot driven format they seem to use now. In the late/mid 80's - late/mid 90's they seemed way more attention getting as characters were more complex and layered.
  15. AW FanForLife's Avatar
    I also think if the stations wanted to give it a try they could use the saturday primetime slots to rerun maybe the friday episode, or maybe if they got some sort of good story going that they thought they could attract people with they could shoot an episode that's a little steamier or a little more primetimeish and air it in a primetime slot just as a special occasion type thing to try and grab some non-watchers and bring them to the show. I remember DOOL did this sometime in the 90's.
  16. ollie000's Avatar
    I agree that the writers have gone to sensationalism and forgot what makes a soap tick.
    If soap net is going down the networks might consider air ing reruns late evening and save money on other shows which are not really pulling their weight or week end afternoons or mornings.

    The networks are dismissing the viewers using DVR TIVO, recordable DVD's and those who did watch soapnet.
    More talk and games will not win viewers, certainly not loyal viewers.
    I guess the networks are forcing us all to watch movies on cable exclusively.

    Its a sad outcome.

    Now perhaps we can petition for DVD's of older soap from the beginning and have something

    The