Citing the current expense of producing soap operas as well as the declining ratings for daytime soaps, CBS cancels it’s second soap of the year, As the World Turns. Only months after Guiding Light bites the dust, and only a week after Maddie’s blog launch, CBS pulls the plug on yet another long-running (54 years, over 13,500 episodes), beloved, Procter & Gamble soap opera. Come September, CBS daytime soap viewers will be left with (most likely) a game show in lieu of ATWT, The Bold and the Beautiful, and The Young and the Restless.
Speculations contributing to the waning viewership for daytime soaps has been circulating for a while now. Changing societal norms, like the increasing number of women entering the work force, the growing popularity of (coincidentally cheaper) fare such as judge and talk shows, the overall variety of viewer choice, and migration to other media platforms during daytime hours have all been identified as factors effecting “sudsers'” ratings. Though in the case of ATWT, fans of the series have other ideas.
Prior to the series finale of Guiding Light, soaps have made valiant attempts to cut costs and attract audiences. Series have tried to reinvigorate the format by changing shooting techniques (use of hand held digital cameras on ATWT and other programs), incorporating fan produced scripts, or signing Hollywood talent for limited runs.
When Guiding Light was canceled a few months ago, it was replaced with the less costly revival of Let’s Make a Deal. However, the suds, like the characters that populate them, are often resurrected. Following NBC’s cancellation of Passions in 2007, the network went into immediate negotiations of the sale of the show to Direct TV. Although, loyal audience members and casual viewers might be currently mourning the end of the series, judging by past post-cancellation soap deals, the probability of the narrative continuing in some vein on cable, satellite, or online seems relatively high.
In any case, ATWT series finale is approaching, giving the show’s producers about 9 more months to either tie up lose ends, incorporate more cliffhangers, or go out with a bang — which in soap opera terms could be anything from split personalities and incest, to orangutan nurses and killer clones. So, stay tuned for the end, as the world stops turning September 2010.
But with the ever decreasing millions of viewers, the current economy, the viability of soaps on other media platforms, and the increased ratings for the game and talk shows that replace them in their time slots — what does this mean for the future of the daytime soap? And what does it mean for the networks that cut them lose?