ABC Television Axes Two Major Daytime Dramas—Are TV Soaps Dead?

I grew up in a home in which soap operas (referred to as “daytime dramas” in the industry) were a staple of life. Even when we moved to a remote village on the Canadian prairie, my mother did her best to view every soap available on the one-and-a-half channels we could receive. Now this staple of daytime television is in rapid decline. On the day of this writing, yet another two soaps are about to meet their demise. ABC Television announced that One Life to Live and All My Children will both be ending over the next year. Checking the official announcement page on the ABC Website, readers’ comments are unanimous in their opposition toward this decision.

The reason for the change? Part of it is the fact that families are living very differently now than a few decades ago during the heydays of soaps. Women are less likely to be in the home during daytime. The other factor is financial. Daytime serials are expensive to produce, and with the surge in popularity for non-scripted television shows—talk and reality shows in particular— television executives are attracted to these formats for their inexpensive production costs, even if it means a small loss in overall audience. Finally the recent recession has also had an impact. This New York Times blog details how the loss of advertising revenue, especially from automobile manufacturers, has literally killed many soap stars.

In 2010 As The World Turns ended a 50-plus year history and was the final soap to be produced by Procter & Gamble, the company responsible for giving daytime dramas the “Soap Opera” name. With this recent news from ABC, only a couple of daytime dramas remain, one being the notable General Hospital which has managed to maintain significant audience numbers. Whether this is good news or bad depends on your opinions of daytime drama. Some see it as time wasting nonsense, while others have relied on these shows for entertainment and have come to respect the many challenging subjects they have introduced into their storylines, creating public awareness for a multitude of causes including medical issues, homosexuality, and substance abuse. Sadly, while I was never a fan of soaps, some of our “reality” television is an even poorer substitute. At least we knew those dysfunctional families in daytime dramas were not real!

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