Can the ‘Real Housewives’ Save Daytime Soaps?

Now that they’ve conquered primetime, Bravo’s "Real Housewives" may be poised to save daytime soaps.


NBC Universal’s syndication unit has struck a deal with NBC and Hearst-owned TVstations to syndicate "Housewives" as a one-hour, five-days-a-week strip starting in 2010. That’s according to Broadcasting & Cable syndie ace Paige Albiniak, who broke the news this morning on B&C’s website. (NBC U declined comment on the report).


B&C notes that by next fall, Bravo will have produced more than 100 episodes of the "Housewives" franchise. The series has featured different sets of rich women in locales such as New York, Orange County, New Jersey, Atlanta and, soon, Washington, D.C.


Assuming most NBC and Hearst stations air "Housewives" in the daytime hours, the show could serve as an interesting experiment regarding the future of soap operas. Scripted soaps are on the ropes, with CBS about to pull the plug on the grandpa of soaps, "Guiding Light"; other serials are also on life support at various networks.


"Housewives" plays as a soap, but because it’s unscripted, its production costs are a fraction of what networks pay for traditional serials. If repeats of "Housewives" do particularly well, it could prompt one of the networks to explore the idea of launching a first-run unscripted soap in daytime.


NBC tried its hand at a reality show/soap opera a few years back with "Starting Over." Despite winning an Emmy, viewership wasn’t strong enough to sustain the series beyond a couple of seasons.


Will "Housewives" have more luck? Tune in tomorrow….