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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The End of Soap Operas

There has been a great deal of talk both in and out of the industry about how the soap opera genre has run its course and should be phased out. These same people point the across the board falling rating without taking account or in some cases totally disregarding the changes in viewing habits, the societal changes and technological advancements. The genre fan base is not diminishing; in fact, it is expanding to included demographics that were previously embarrassed to admit their guilty pleasure. However, in recent years the genre has fallen victim to stagnation and network greed.

According to Nielsen, the number of viewers has been steadily decreasing. However, their outdated accounting methods do not take into account online viewing or delayed viewing. Instead they continue to rely on the diaries and equipment, which by passes all recording devices thereby ignoring a vast proportion of television viewers. With the busy schedules and easy access to recording equipment has given viewers the option to watch their favorite shows based on their own schedules; no longer tied to the networks’ timetable, viewers are able to watch their shows when they want and as many times as they wish.

It has been known for decades that the Nielsen diaries under reported daytime viewers, while propping up more “socially acceptable” programming. Many viewers simply didn’t want to acknowledge watching soap operas. For decades, it wasn’t cool to watch soaps. Yet as the storylines and characters became more complex and socially relevant, the stigma attached to watching them vanished. Characters and plots became topics of conversations not only across the back fences of homes as housewives gossiped, but also around the water coolers and in schools across the country.

Originally targeting stay at home wives and mothers, soaps focused on the family and romance. However, as the genre matured, suspense, drama and humor became an intrical part of their popularity. As the plots and conflicts became more intricate, soaps gained in popularity by broadening their appeal beyond house bound women. Although women continue to be the primary demographic, they are not the women of yesteryears. Instead of being housebound, many women have joined the work force; yet through the use of current and developing technologies, they have been able to keep up with their favorite soaps. One major difference that has developed over the decades is the age difference in the typical viewer. When soaps first appeared on television, the primary viewers were mid-teens to early thirties; however, as with the whole country, the median age of the soap viewer has risen to 37.6. Yet, network executives fail to take into account the both of these important changes in their viewership. Instead, they continue to court the younger viewers even though they don’t have the interest, loyalty or consumer spending power to attract the traditional soap advertiser.

In addition, unlike other programming, soaps have the unique advantage of being passed down from one generation to the next.

One only has to look at the popularity and the diversity at soap events to learn that the fan base hasn’t shrunk. Events sell out quickly. Mechanizing the soaps is a multi-million dollar industry. Magazines, websites, internet radio shows and blogs follow not only the soaps, but also the individual stars. Millions of dollars exchange hands

Soap operas are not diminishing in fans or popularity; they are suffering from stagnation and network greed. How many times can a beloved character be killed and brought back to life without the Whose the daddy? Love triangles

To read the storylines I wrote for Days of Our Lives go to my site at There you will also find excerpts of my novels, the proposal for Operation Home Base, and my feature films.


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