Tag Archives: Soap opera

What the Big Three Could Learn From HLN and the 39th Annual Daytime Emmys!

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!

The End of Soaps?

I grew up on Days of Our Lives.  My stay at home mother took her break every day at 1pm and I would “rest” while she watched her “soap”. Some of my earliest TV memories are of the Salem Strangler, and one of my first diary entries detailed my jubilation that Bo and Hope made love. (Not that I really knew anything about what actually happened under the sheets in those days.)  Soap Operas were traditions passed down from mother to daughter.  The characters became like family.  I recall feigning illness to come home from school on the days of weddings or big plot developments.  My mother had to have known, but never commented.

Just last week, we were met with the sad news that two more soaps would be leaving the air.  The cancellation of One Life to Live and All My Children came on the coattails of Guiding Light and As the World Turns.  It seems soaps just aren’t profitable these days and are more easily replaced by cheaper talk and game shows.  That’s a shame.  We are losing something special, something that connects us as women,  families, and community.

I think lower ratings for soaps have less to do with people not being interested and more to do with how they’re counting viewers.  Most of the people I know who have the luxury of being home during the workday still watch soaps. They still give the stay at home moms that hour of sanity to detach and dream.  But they also give that comfortable hour of relaxation and familiarity to those of us who DVR, tape, or watch them again on Soapnet (almost none of which are being counted in the rating system as it stands).

When Guiding Light and As the World Turns were cancelled last year I grieved for the loss of characters and stories that had been a part of my heart for years and were like family to me.  As soon as As the world Turns was off the air, I took up watching General Hospital.  I could have turned on any number of mindless afternoon options, but I needed and wanted the stories and connections that only soaps offer. I have since found new friends at work who love to spend time chatting about what’s happening in Port Charles.

People think that new viewers aren’t coming to the table, but just last week my 12 year-old niece crawled into the chair with me and started asking me questions about Michael and Abby, Liz and Jason, and Sonny and Brenda.  She was drawn in despite her homework and her computer.  She was drawn into the stories,  the couples, the romance.  She was drawn to sharing the experience of a soap with me the way I was with my mom when I was little.

I don’t think these recent cancellations are the end of soaps, just maybe soaps as we know them.  Formats do have to grow and change with the times and the audience.  Many of the actors from As the World Turns and other cancelled shows have ventured into online soaps and other new media. Maybe soaps won’t stay in the afternoons or maybe they’ll only be shown on the web, but one thing that won’t change is the fact that there will always be an audience that craves the connection, continuity, and community that good soap operas offer. I just hope the people in charge of the networks aren’t too cheap to see that.