Written by ModernMediaMix
Sunday, May 5th, 2013
The good old soap opera. It has been a pastime for your mothers and grandmothers. If you were anything like me, you were sitting right there at the kitchen table, at the tender age of 9, mystified by the Luke and Laura story. Those were the days! But over the years all of the greats have slowly faded away. “Guiding Light” was cancelled in 2009, “One Life To Live” was cancelled in 2012, “Passions” was cancelled in 2007, “Another World” was cancelled in 1999, and “All My Children” was cancelled in 2011. What happened…and where did we go wrong?
Why have soaps only been able to draw in a fraction of the audience they once did? For starters, more women are going to work now. They are no longer stay-at-home moms and homemakers. In some cases they are the breadwinner for the household, and must put their career as a priority.
Cable is a threat. It offers a variety of viewing options, and consumer’s choices are endless with the DVR, DVD, the Internet, video games all at their fingertips. Soap opera ratings have consistently declined since the 1970’s, and now soaps are considered a genre of the past. Fans are falling out of love with the storylines. These shows are personal to viewers, and once your favorite show is killed off—like a discarded character—who wants to put time and energy into another? It’s just like relationships—they take lots of time to build.
The focus for soaps has become narrower, and the target audience is now shifting to the young adult women. Producers need a new approach aimed at the boomer audience. They are too concerned with putting out quick fix content that will be sure to spark ratings, instead of taking their time to develop content made to last. And let’s not forget about our fathers and sons. They too should be considered and are an important part of the fan base that needs to be reached.
Ratings are the air that soap operas breathe and these days they’re not breathing much of them. The Nielsen Ratings System is a setup for failure for daytime TV. Daytime TV must be watched on the same day it aired to be counted for their ratings. Primetime TV however can be watched in a 7-day period to be counted. This leaves a big chunk of uncounted viewers, including me.
The executive initiative also needs to change. Studio executives are so concerned with ratings and money that they have lost concentration on what really matters – the story, the characters, and the development of a soap opera. Sets were once live and made the viewer feel personally involved. Now they resemble that of primetime TV shows. The idea is that you have to spend money to make money, and execs have got to cut the quick gimmicks and get back to the basics.
But, don’t shed tears just yet. There may be hope for our beloved soaps after all! Prospect Park – The Online Network, has agreed to take on “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” via onlinenetwork.com. This new soap opera venture is highly dependent on the intensely loyal fan base. The hope is that due to the success of Internet-enabled TVs and iPods, web soaps will exceed expectations. New episodes will premiere this spring on Hulu, Hulu Plus, and iTunes. Fans will be able to stream 30-minute episodes each weekday via their computers, connected TVs, mobile phones and tablets. This service is currently free though Hulu.com and Hulu Plus subscriptions but it is not clear if iTunes will provide free version.
Yes, soaps may not be what they used to but every little effort toward keeping them afloat is a positive step and I for one am excited to see what the future holds for this veteran genre.
- Brandi Fields