Friday, October 27, 2006

Daytime Soaps Are Dead

By the way, it's a little acknowledged fact that daytime soaps have fallen on seriously hard times. Viewing levels are WAY down from the heyday in the Eighties. I'm surprised all three networks still support them. The ENTIRE viewing audience for all eight daytime soaps per MediaWeek is 9.47 million viewers. Total. Lump them all together -- all seven and a half hours of programming -- add up all their viewers and they'd barely rank in the Top 40 for primetime shows. Why they keep getting made is beyond me.

2 comments:

Jimmy said...

First, what else would they put on during this time? Shove it off to local affiliates? They couldn't afford to fill that much time on a daily basis. Second, what is the cost of producing this fluff? According to my mother, who does watch these religiously, soaps are around 30-35 minutes of content, the rest commercial. How much can it cost to produce these shows compared to primetime dramas? Something tels me it's a hell of a lot cheaper to produce daytime drama that even one primetime show.

Michael in New York said...

All reasonable points. Soaps are indeed cheap programming. But when you used to attract say 20 million viewers (I have no good access to total soap viewers in the 80s or 90s) and now that same programming is attracting half that audience, something is wrong. They've got lots of competition now but still, that's a dramatic fall-off akin to what happened in primetime with encroaching cable. And what did primetime do? Reinvigorate their schedules w variety shows like Idol, game shows like Millionaire and Deal Or No Deal, falshy uber-expensive serialized dramas like Lost and Prison Break and so on. Lots would be done to regain those lost viewers in daytime. I haven't timed it out but your mom is certainly right that daytime shows include a lot of "previously on" and then glimpses of "coming up" on commercial breaks and "next time on." I'll time out a show to see what actual programming time is. For a primetime show, it's about 42 minutes per hours. I wouldn't be surprised if it's down to 35 m for a daytime soap. But unlike primetime shows, daytime soaps are produced daily and they never use reruns. Instead of 22 episodes a year (the order for most dramas), they film roughly 250 episodes. Plus they have huge casts. Soaps are pretty cheap. Let's make up some figures: primetime dramas cost at least $1 mil per and often more. Let's say a single episode of daytime tv costs $100,000. That's $1 mil per 10 episodes, or $25 mil for a year. Maybe they're even cheaper than that, say $12 mil. Okay, that's cheaper than a primetime show but nothing is more expensive than a flop -- if you're losing viewers, you need to change things up.