When HLN decided to air the 39th annual Daytime Emmys I was psyched. While awards shows in general can get a little dull, I have always tuned in for the chance to see my daytime drama stars get their due for some of the hardest jobs in the biz. Soap stars, writers, and directors work longer and harder than most putting out a show that doesn’t have a “season” but runs all year-long and has passionate fans that won’t shut up if someone’s “out of character”. As our world has changed over the past 50 years (almost the amount of time General Hospital has been in existence) the soap audience has changed as well. We aren’t stay at home moms or elderly women who have nothing else to do. Often times we’re busy successful women (and men!) who have to DVR our favorites and make time to connect with our “stories”. The saddest part of this evolution is that it isn’t recognized by the powers that be in programming and many of our beloved soaps have been cancelled due to poor ratings.
The great thing about HLN and their treatment of the Emmys was that they took the time to figure out what the viewers wanted and gave it to them. They cut the fluff pieces and gave out the awards. They did big awards in the beginning, middle, and end. They gave us a red carpet with people who asked questions that proved they either did their research or watched the shows themselves. But probably the coolest thing they did was interact with their audience through Twitter before, during, and after the show.
Using Twitter, they gave soap fans the opportunity to share their thoughts and love of soaps for days before the show, stoking the excitement and increasing their odds of viewers. During the show HLN had someone reading viewer tweets and responding to them in real-time like they were watching the show with us. The #DaytimeEmmys actually trended worldwide for most of the show! After they took the time to thank fans and invite them to view the show again, although the tweet asking if we could get it trending again on a rerun was a little naïve.
HLN didn’t pull in the number of viewers that the big networks want for the shows they overproduce and spend way too much money on, but they got the biggest audience they’ve had for a regularly scheduled non-news program ever! ABC, NBC, CBS – pay attention! The viewers don’t watch in the traditional way in big enough numbers to bring in the ratings soaps used to. The number of people watching soaps according to your unrealistic Nielsen numbers is about the best they can expect in a changing world.
TV is a different animal these days. Just because I might sit and watch General Hospital for five hours in a row on Saturday morning doesn’t mean I shouldn’t count in your ratings. Soaps need to embrace their viewers on a level that works with their lives today! Use Facebook and Twitter. Promote the show in primetime. Count the online viewers as ratings! We may not be watching live daily but we’re watching everything you’re throwing at us. Look at your stories, assumptions and pace. The storylines that got you ratings in the 80’s will still get you ratings with the right twists and updates (see Dallas – TNT as a perfect example!). Soaps are a treasure that the big three networks will regret letting slip through their hands when they realize that nothing is going to bring in the ratings from pre-cable/satellite/internet days. If only they would take a page from HLN and promote what they have and connect with their viewers!