Daytime TV Ratings Resurgence: If Soaps Are ‘Dead,’ Why Are Their Audiences Growing?

Daytime TV Ratings Resurgence: If Soaps Are 'Dead,' Why Are Their Audiences Growing?

The remaining daytime dramas are showing increased numbers this year; insert shocked gasp here

It appears that reports of the death of the soap opera have been greatly exaggerated. At least, if this season's numbers are any indication.

Two years ago, the prognosis for the genre wasn't looking good. Longtime soap operas “All My Children” and “One Life to Life” were yanked from the air by ABC. And a slew of new talk shows seemed poised to take their place.

Also read: ‘Young and the Restless’ Brings David Tom Back After Billy Miller Exit

But a curious thing is happening this season. Like a soap-opera character who suddenly re-appears, wide awake and ready for scandal after being in a coma for years, the soaps are back.

The 2013-2014 season has seen a  daytime ratings boost compared to last year, with soap operas in particular benefiting. Across the board, the networks’ soaps have increased their viewers.

Also read: ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ Gets the Reality TV Treatment

CBS's “The Young and the Restless” and ABC's “General Hospital,” especially, have hit milestones. “The Young and the Restless” — up 10 percent in total viewers this season compared to last year with an average 5.1 million — is celebrating its 25th consecutive season as the top daytime drama, while “General Hospital” hit a near six-year high in viewers — 3.45 million — with its Dec. 6 telecast, and is pacing for its best season in total viewers since the 2006/2007 season.

CBS's “The Bold and the Beautiful” and NBC's “Days of Our Lives” are also enjoying boosted numbers this season. The former is up 14 percent in total viewers with an average 3.83 million, and up 7 percent and 10 percent in the women 25-54 and women 18-49 demographics, respectively.

Also read: ‘Days of Our Lives’ Casting Director Fran Bascom Dead

Season to date, “Days” has climbed 13 percent in the demos, and has ticked up 9 percent in total viewers.

Meanwhile, the list of talk shows that once promised to dominate the daytime landscape but have since fallen by the wayside is considerable. Daytime efforts from Anderson Cooper, Ricki Lake, Jeff Probst and others have come and gone like, um, sands through the hourglass.

What's behind the modest but encouraging growth spurt for soaps? It's difficult to say, but DVR viewing could play a factor. Recent research has indicated that there's a fairly substantial shift in same-day, time-shifted viewing for the daypart, indicating that more viewers could be watching the soaps via DVR. Particularly strong storylines this year could also play a factor.

There's another possible explanation as well, one that will likely be less gratifying to soaps fans. With “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” off of the air, the remaining soaps could simply be picking up viewers who previously tuned in to those programs.

“I think it comes down to supply and demand — there is now a limited amount of soap operas (four) and fans of the genre have little choice but to watch them, since there is a limit to the number of programs left,” Brad Adgate, senior vice president, research for Horizon Media told TheWrap.

Either way, soap fans can rest assured — their genre hasn't staged its last dramatic shocker yet.

  • Karim El Masri

    One Life To Live and All My Children will soon be back, mark my words.

    • name

      as the article notes “supply & demand” with 8 soaps airing just 4 years ago, (GL & ATWT included) Ratings had noticeably dropped off. But with just 4, Nielsens are popping again, so it looks like dropping 4 was a blessing in disguise for the remaining soaps. if they bring back AMC and/or OLTL the ratings would begin drop again.

      • Karim El Masri

        Today, we are pleased to announce the official launch of our campaign to get ABC to bring back AMC and OLTL to the network!

        The first task of the campaign starts TODAY!!!!!!!

        We want you to send Victoria Dummer, the executive in charge of daytime programming at ABC an Ecard for the Holidays!

        We would like you to send either a custom photo card or a Holiday greeting. We have placed in the Files section of the group, step by step instructions on how send an Ecard. For those of you choosing to do a photo card, we have placed photos in the group for your use.

        This first email will be themed to AMC and the Father Clarence character.

        We want everyone to use the tag line: Dear Father Clarence, All I want for the Holidays is AMC & OLTL back on the air on ABC!

        We want to overload her inbox!!! Send as many cards as you can. They are FREE!

        You can also Tweet Ms. Dummer a Holiday message at @vickiabc123

        Send her traditional Holiday Cards:

        Victoria J. Dummer
        ABC Daytime
        Times Square
        1500 Broadway
        NY, NY 10036-4015

        Remember the movie “Miracle on 34th St.”? We want to recreate the courtroom scene with the postal delivery of all the mail for Santa, although it will be email and snail mail re: Father Clarence to Vicki Dummer.


        (Our task next week will be themed to OLTL).


    • ellen72

      Wishful thinking, but it ain't going to happen.

      • Karim El Masri

        Never Say Never, Ellen I will continue this till the end. And I hope you join me if you care

        • SaveOurSuds

          The casts of those shows have scattered. Many have new jobs which is great. There really isn’t a way to bring the shows back and have them resemble what they once were. Why not campaign for a new soap instead?

          • Xanna_Dont

            Because we're not all the same. We have different tastes. Soap viewing is a personal choice. I'm not interested in a new soap. Why would any network abandon 3 to 5 million viewers, many of whom are boycotting ABC as a whole? No, we want AMC & OLTL. Nothing else will do.

    • KansasGuest

      Maybe…but it won't be on broadcast television. Name me one broadcast drama or comedy – ONE – that has made the transition from being produced online to producing new episodes on a traditional broadcasting, cable or pay tv (HBO, Showtime, etc.) channel. ONE program that was so crazy successful online (and had such monster huge numbers) that the networks HAD to have it on their lineup, and they paid to get exclusive rights to air it. I'm truly interested to know what numbers they got online and what that program is. My guess…there isn't one. DAMAGES went from F/X (cable) to DirecTV. COUGAR TOWN went from ABC (broadcast) to TBS (cable). But, it's never happened in the other direction because the numbers are just too small.

      • Xanna_Dont

        Web Therapy on Showtime starring Lisa Kudrow.

  • BigRedEO

    ABC needs to have the guts to say, “Look, Brian Frons made a horrible mistake during his reign at ABC Daytime and we are bringing back All My Children and One Life To Live.”. They'd not only gain viewers, but a lot of viewers’ respect.

    • Jewell Margolis

      Good luck with that, I just saw a commercial for a show that will be airing in Feb. called The Taste,they still don't get it.

      • Guest

        This is the second season for The Taste.

      • Ashante Williams

        the taste is a primetime show…it doesn't compete with the soaps..AND this is the SECOND season of the taste…let's follow along closely..thanks

        • yourmomsaidso

          There's no need to be snarky… not every likes or even wants to pay attention to “reality” tv such as yourself

          • slytex

            Then watch something else, I understand not everyone likes soaps but majority do.

    • Xanna_Dont

      There are two lawsuits pending and the first one must be settled before ABC can try to get the rights back from Prospect Park. But I agree. Frons got the ax awhile back. It can work if they settle! Send emails, letters, and holiday cards to Vicki Dummer at ABC Daytime, Times Square, 1500 Broadway, NY NY 10036, and tell her what you want. Ask her to bring back “Love In The Afternoon.”

      • Ashante Williams

        i still laugh that Prospect Park has their panties in a twist over the fact that GH killed off Cole and Hope…and because they are such amateurs they don't realize that if you kill someone off..IF THERE'S NO BODY…you can bring them back..and it didn't matter if Kristen Alderson didn't want to return..characters can be re-cast…then they could have had the Cole, Starr and hope story they wanted so badly for OLTL…smh LOL

        • Xanna_Dont

          Yes, they CAN be brought back from the dead, but it takes a lot of writing hoops to jump through to do so. And while I only watch AMC & OLTL, it would pretty disconcerting for fans who also watch GH to have doppleganger characters on two different shows pursuing two different storylines! PP did have the rights to them and still does. ABC took liberties that they should pay for; how much is up to a judge. ABC, Please pay the fine, take the shows back, and let's get back to work y'all. It's been very costly already, but it's not too late to fix it.

    • Becky Maples

      That will never happen I'm sure, He obvisiously can't be man enough to do that, they took away our soaps and I have never watched the new shows put in there place and never will, I will always be a AMC, OLTL and GH Fan no matter what

    • KansasGuest

      The ratings for AMC & OLTL online proved it wasn't a mistake for ABC to cancel it. If they had been that good, PP would be making season 2 of both soaps right now because they would be rolling in $$$. Look, DAYS is the lowest rated soap on daytime. It gets 2+ million viewers per episode. When AMC & OLTL aired for a limited time on OWN, weren't they only getting 300,000 viewers per episode? That is way too small an audience to justify bringing back either soap. You want AMC & OLTL to return? In blunt terms, they HAD to have ratings as high as Y&R for *every* episode to get someone to turn their head at ABC & notice because relaunching a soap is more expensive an investment than keeping an existing one running. Didn't happen. This was the fans’ chance to bring the numbers, and they didn't.

      • yourmomsaidso

        DAYS RULES! :)

      • Xanna_Dont

        In all fairness, OWN was broadcasting reruns of what we'd already watched online. And it's not in HD. So 300,000 ain't bad.

      • john rambo

        your wrong many fans didn't know AMC & OLTL were online and there are still a lot of the fans that don't have computers or ways to get online so they couldn't watch, I am one of the few fans of the soaps in my family that knew and had access to watch online.

        • marrii

          I watched both OLTL and AMC on Hulu+ for about 2 months and couldn't stand either one. AMC did a horrible job of casting and recasting. It wasn't the same show at all. OLTL had possibilities, but the Prospect Park/Hulu format was so horrible I finally gave up. I am now one of the many viewers who have boosted the ratings of Y&R and Days.

        • Jesse Thunder

          Don't forget, they failed to put it on Netflix so deafies have access to CC (or Subtitle online).

      • Jiggywiggy22

        I never knew they were broadcast on OWN. :(

  • DF

    More unemployed viewers.

  • Jewell Margolis

    Too bad ABC is too stupid to get it.

  • pauljgo

    I started watching Days Of Our Lives and General Hospital during the government shutdown. I now DVR both shows. Very entertaining.

    • matt murdock

      Let me get this right, the gov't is shutdown for what, three weeks? This person sits on his ass and watches soaps, and then gets back pay, too? What a country!!!

      • pauljgo

        And imagine my surprise when I returned to find 2 weeks of work that had piled up waiting just for me. :-)

  • tata

    Daytime viewers – whenever we watch our shows – are interested in longterm storytelling. It becomes a consistent element in our lives. Talk shows will come and go because they are meaningless.

    • Guest

      There used to be almost 20 soaps at one time!

  • Donna9000

    I want OLTL & AMC back…

  • SaveOurSuds

    Great article!

  • Just a fan

    It's pretty simple really. While YandR and BandB have been doing well all along the ABC shows were dropping fans left and right due to first pure stupidity and later pure spite! Brian Fronz had no clue what he was doing, ever. He ruined shows on all 3 networks. Ratings had dropped continuously since he took over at ABC . Fans knew the problem all along. Soaps are meant to be ensemble casting which each character bringing their fans to the mix. I'm not a big fan of FV and RC but at least they got that part right on GH and yet so far all they've done is get the numbers back to where they were before Fronz got all spiteful at people not liking his way and tried to ruin the shows. Imagine if they would write for long time fan favorite characters like Elizabeth, mac, Alexis etc., etc.,etc.(none of whom have had a real story since before they took over) instead of continuously forcing their newbies down our throats. The show would have gotten even more viewers back but ABC is trying stubbornly to save face and not admit it was bad management all along.
    Brad Adgates comments are off base as well. You don't watch a show you never liked before just because it's the only one on. They may have picked up a few viewers like that but not enough to make a huge difference in the ratings. They may have also gained a few fans of the actors who crossed over from the other show but the real reason they are doing better is that it's not totally centered around Sonny Jason and Carly all the time. Soaps are meant to be ensembles.
    As for the slight improvements on the CBS shows It is mostly that the fear of the shows being cancelled is not as strong and the depression the fans felt is lifting. They're not afraid to get caught up in a story line again.

    • Guest

      GH is only up because of its 50th with VET returns…

  • Xanna_Dont

    The idea that fans of All My Children and One Life To Live simply jumped to other soaps is absurd. Soap viewing is a very personal choice. I'm strictly Agnes Nixon. While General Hospital has benefited from OLTL characters moving to it (now the subject of a Prospect Park lawsuit), loyal AMC & OLTL fans still want our shows back! It's more likely that viewers of the remaining soaps started watching more (or at least making sure they were counted more–we all know Nielsen is antiquated; most of us tape/DVR) to keep their personal choices on the air. We're not all the same. To dismiss us as a simple, uniform demographic is a huge mistake. C'mon, Vicki Dummer; be a hero. Settle the lawsuit(s) with PP and bring AMC & OLTL back home where they belong. The fans are still here.

  • KansasGuest

    As a GH fan, it's great to hear about the ratings rise. But, I have to agree that the uptick is probably due to the remaining 4 soaps benefiting from a greatly narrowed field. The reason I don't believe any of the other cancelled soaps will return is simply economics. Do fans of AMC & OLTL know how expensive it is to even launch a primetime soap like DALLAS, with its 18-22 episodes every season? Daytime soaps make 250+ *new episodes every year nonstop, and have a much larger cast than anything see in primetime. They are crazy expensive to make.

    For all their enthusiasm, the relaunch of AMC & OLTL did NOT bring the numbers needed to recoup PP's expense. Yeah, there were numbers. But, they simply weren't high enough to cover the high cost of making 75-100+ new episodes of each soap. When you think about it, that's 3-4 TIMES (times 2!) the number of new episodes NCIS or THE WALKING DEAD make every season; and they are even cheaper to make because they don't run year-round and can charge much higher rates for advertising in primetime than daytime.

    There are ways to make online series that are successful. Look at HOUSE OF CARDS on Netflix, or the various online series like THE BAY or TAINTED DREAMS (coming soon). Michelle Stafford's series is even getting some good press.

    • Xanna_Dont

      The trouble with PP's profitability was/is paying licensing fees to ABC. As long as ABC owns the rights, it would be difficult for any other entity. But without having pay fees to itself, ABC could easily make these shows profitable again. They were profitable! OLTL had the highest ratings of their daytime shows when they gave it the ax! And now, considering that 2 out of the 3 replacement shows have been canceled (including the very expensive “Katie”), it would behoove ABC to get back to work on AMC & OLTL once their PP lawsuit is settled.

  • Former Soap actor

    3 things are at play here: First, yes supply/demand – fewer soaps. Second, High unemployment means more people at home in the day to watch. Third, when time are tough people seek escapism (soaps show drama and romance that far exceeds reality).

  • SBook2515

    Maybe ratings are up because people are simply sick to death of the reality/talk show format.

  • Priscilla Bowers

    I'm fed up with Y&R. tHE BACKGROUND IS SO DARK, ‘saves” money on sets., Story drags on &on. I once wouldn't make a move before I viewed this soap. Now I hit
    & miss. The whole story is stupid.

  • Joyce

    I am a die-hard fan-if they took all the soaps off the air and only ran one show- I don't care which one -at 2 in the morning you can bet your last dollar that I would set my alarm for 1:45 every night. But I am a rare fan; everyone else switches off their televisions too early and idiots like Brian Fons don't get it and never will. thanks

  • cynthia curran

    Also, try a new verison of Dark Shadows and Passions.

  • Sondra

    If Guiding Light was brought back, I would be first in line to watch it. I miss it.

  • terri

    Bring back AMC and OLTL These stupid talk shows and food show I refuse to watch , In a days pay I couldn't afford to make the dished they make , I refuse to watch and am very disappointed in ABC, not only do I watch soaps at nite, and now they (Disney) have done away with the Soapnet channel I do not have DVR so I miss the show for the day if Im gone. TV has gone to the young, It's all murder and zombie s and stuff not fit for a family to sit down and watch.. So disappointed in ABC

  • mandy

    I am a huge Days fan and a huge fan of the WilSon storyline. They are the main reason I watch the soap. I figured their ratings would be higher but they're still up from last year which is good. I'd hate to see WilSon leave or the end of Days. It's the only show I watch.

  • Warcat59

    It's more a case of the bean counters at the networks wanting to put on cheaper and cheaper shows during the day. Despite it's devoted legion of fans, “Days of Our Lives” has been living on the brink for years. The networks set a price they are willing to pay for the show, and then it's up to the production company to make it profitable within that amount. That's why so many of the veterans go on extended leaves. These are the actors that make the most money, so to free up funds for the production, they are the first to be laid off. We have one station in my market that just runs infomercials in place of the soaps that were cancelled. I look for daytime TV to be nothing but infomercials and meaningless talk shows within the next five to ten years.

    • I Love Soaps

      @Warcat, you couldn't be more wrong. @Samhille you are so right!
      I've loved soap operas since I was a teen watching during summers out of school and continued as a college co-ed between classes. Kinda watched here and there once I began my career, but then later as life cycles go, I left the workforce to have babies,so I picked up where I left off on the soaps and enjoyed them again because they're a welcome break from household duties and great escapism. When my kids became school age I went back into the workforce and watched soaps off and on like, if home sick. Then along came the DVR and watched on SoapNet! Later left the workforce and became entrepreneur and I take my breaks and watch Days of Our Lives. I enjoy taking my lunch and watching my soaps otherwise I may work straight through without stopping because I'm a bonafide workaholic. Great escapism with something familiar and now they have stepped up the writing and the fashion styling quality. Not to mention those hot soap hunks!

  • samhille

    All of the corporate execs miscalculated. . .daytime viewing grows because ‘telling & listening to stories’ are timeless entertainment for human beings- -cavemen did it! CBS cut off their noses to spite their face when the cancelled Guiding Light & As the world turns. . .they lost network viewers & loyalty. They would have always had an audience that wanted to see the events in the lives of the Coopers, Snyders, Spauldings etc. . .parents, children & grandparents spent years doing this together- -families! Why is ‘The Big Bang Theory’ so successful??? It's a SOAP!

    • jgraefe

      I totally agree!! CBS daytime stinks without the great soaps, “As The World Turns” and “Guiding Light.” Bring back these classic, awesome soaps and daytime would be rocking again.

  • slytex

    Daytime soaps aren't dying, it's really sad that ABC had to break so many hearts when they suddenly said they were taking 2 of the most prime day time shows off and putting them where, right. How it is watched now is a joke to me. Young and the restless is another prime show we viewers love. I, myself wish they would stop all this and just focus on the next story line.

  • Aaron Hudson

    Cause viewers are sick of the copy cat court shows and talk shows that replaced sioaps cancelled in the past few years.

  • Sylvia McComas

    They need to bring back As the World Turns and The Guiding Light. I enjoyed them and watched for years as far back as Search for Tomorrow when it was on for 15min.We don't need all talk shows and much of it is Trash. Please consider bringing them back.

  • Cindy

    ABC you need to show CBS who the real winner of Day time by bring back AMC and OLTL. Make it love in the afternoon.