Why are soap operas fading away?

“As The World Turns” is going off the air this September. “Guiding Light” went off the air last year, while there many rumors that other shows will join them. Why is the soap opera genre dying? The stock answer is “their core audience was housewives, and few women stay at home anymore in the day”. But this social phenomenom has been going for decades. Plus, DVRs and more timeshifting tech should have resolved some of these problems. Are there any other reasons the daytime soap is on its last legs?

At a guess, I’d say the genre is just played out. What might have been a dramatically scandalous and delicious storyline in 1970 (“that boy is… YOUR SON!”) is now tame compared to the latest headline about Paris Hilton.

I think it is an abundance of people who are willing to bring the drama and act like fools for less money on so called reality shows.

Because they’re ridiculous and people are finally realizing it.

Plus, DVR allows people to watch whatever they want, whenever they want, like you said. So if I have a free hour and a half during the middle of the day, I’m going to watch something I enjoy, thanks to glorious technology.

While I was taking tech calls for Directv the signal for the SOAP channel was lost during the first part of General Hospital one night. We had thousands of calls and interestingly it was about 70% men who were calling to complain.

I’m a stay at home mom, and I think it’s because of two things:

  • Modern moms aren’t allowed to have fun for ourselves anymore. “Go out and play, while I watch TV” doesn’t happen. You can’t send your kid outside alone, there might be a pedophile somewhere in your zip code! How dare you goof off when you could be Enriching Your Child’s Life.

  • But we do goof off anyway. They’re called message boards. Particularly the ones for women, the stories are amazing. You can’t MAKE this shit up.

Did these men sound “fabulous”?:smiley:

I’d give the OP stock answer, because fewer women are watching it .

I think also the production values were too high for what they got in return. I think for one, that because of a lot more channels on TV, people are watching other programming or looking at the internet. Now in 2010, there is an explosion of media that wasn’t there, even in the 1990’s. There is much better drama programming on the cable channels now, and the “Big 4” Networks are playing catch up to cable’s success.

Also, most people who are sitting on their ass on an early Tuesday afternoon is not that highly prized demographic it once was when housewives with working husbands who made enough money were the norm. Most people with the TV on in the early afternoon are the elderly, sick kids, people in hospitals, jail, stoned college students at lunchtime, the unemployed, criminals and drunks. Losing the housewife demographic stuck a hole through the sponsors’ hearts.

Lastly, as the OP stated, women have rejoined the workforce for decades. Well, in those decades, as more and more women had to go to work, the less ratings the soaps had. It was a gradual process. Many of these programs have been on for decades, and it is hard for the networks to kill something that has been on and made money for 30, 40 years. It’s just time to pull the plug on it.

I think there are only four left, “All My Children”, “One Life to Live”, “General Hospital” on ABC and “Days of Our Lives” on NBC.

Because every show nowadays has elements of soap opera in it. It used to be that most shows were purely episodic, so that you could watch every episode, nearly, as a self-contained story and not have to know anything about any of the other episodes. Soap operas were the exception to this and were very neatly pigeonholed.
Now, many dramas----most----have story arcs and you can’t follow episodes unless you’ve been paying attention. There’s too much competition for the traditional soap opera to survive.

Not sure about this. Used to date a girl back in the day who loved “Days of Our Lives” but couldn’t watch regularly. She didn’t read “Soap Opera Digest” or anything, but could watch a random episode months after last seeing one and know exactly what was happening.

She would make me watch it every now and then and it seemed to me that in any given episode not that much really happens anyway. The plotlines are stretched out so thinly and are usually paper-thin anyhow that the story isn’t so much an arc as it is a slightly wavering flatline. Unwatchable in my opinion. Good riddance.

But I think people enjoyed them back then, or they wouldn’t have watched them.

And I don’t think they’re anymore ridiculous than reality TV. But reality TV is definitely cheaper. I think that that’s why they’re being replaced.

I think the cancellation of Guiding Light and As The World Turns is primarily due to their low ratings. CBS is still showing The Young and The Restless which has been at the top of the ratings for many years. Maybe CBS is planning to replace the cancelled shows with a new soap opera that they hope will get better ratings.

I agree with RikWriter that a lot of prime time shows (including sci-fi shows) are starting to have elements of soap opera in them.

I was surprised at the huge drop at the number of viewers since soap operas started. In the 1950’s the top-rated soap opera had 16 million viewers while in the 2009-2010 season the top-rated soap opera had only around 5 million viewers.

My mom never saw a reality show she didn’t love and she watches all those ‘judge’ shows during the day. And Jerry Springer and his ilk. She never once followed a soap… IMO the only real downside of soap operas disappearing is so many actors got their starts in show biz there. What are they going to do now to get noticed?

If I have a free period of time, I can go to any of a number of websites and get plenty of drama. I mean, on the SDMB there’s plenty of drama, among the other stuff we offer. Same goes for just about any other message board. I follow several webcomics and blogs. I never got into soap operas, even when I was in the demographic, because they just weren’t interesting to me. I’ve BEEN a stay-at-home mom, and when I had free time I’d read. Oddly enough, when I lived in Spain, I got hooked on RADIO soap operas, which the Air Force radio station would play each evening. We didn’t have a TV in our apartment and it wouldn’t have done much good anyway, as my Spanish wasn’t really up to understanding the language on TV, and my husband’s Spanish was even worse. If he wanted to watch TV, he went to the base recreation center and watched shows imported from the US.

Also, having the ability to watch commercially made movies at any time is really very new. When I was a child and young adult, people had home movie equipment available, but it wasn’t a common thing. Nowadays, commercial movies are widely available at an extremely low price, so low that frequently it’s cheaper to buy a movie (a few months after the theater run) than to see it in the theaters twice, what with concession purchases and whatnot.

Reality TV also plays a part in the decline of soap operas. And the reality shows are cheaper.

Has the acting in soap operas evolved at all? I don’t necessarily claim that it was *bad *(back in the 80’s when I watched Days), but it was…different. Stylized. Dated, even then. It just didn’t seen like the genre was keeping up with the latest styles in acting and directing, and perhaps that’s part of why they’ve become less popular.

Also, I agree that reality TV and story arcs and outlandish plot lines in other genres, and other ways that “daytime audiences” fill their time, like social media, have satisfied the tastes of the demographics that used to watch soaps, if not the actual people who used to watch soaps.

I don’t think there’s one single thing you can point to, it’s a conglomeration of factors.

One theory is reality TV. The storylines are somewhat the same, “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” is not entirely unlike keeping up with the Bauers and the Real Housewives of Orange County seem more like the Fake Housewives of Pine Valley than any actual housewives I know. The shows feature similar types of escapism/voyeurism. Conversations about the shows are kind of the same. But Reality is cheaper to produce than soaps and somehow seems “realer” than a soap opera does.

Lynn… Der Trihs is… YOUR SON!

This is the crux of the matter. What everyone has been saying about the myriad places the core audience has gone is true – but the bottom line is, sic, the bottom line: who is watching the soaps, and are they an audience corporations are willing to spend money to advertise to? All TV programming decisions come down to this – is it something that will attract advertisers? Not viewers, *advertisers. *

<Whooping and crying and throwing self to the ground>

I KNEW it! I KNEW he wasn’t mine!!!

The acting is a little different from other acting but the worst, most unbelievable thing about soaps is the writing. Nowadays people are a little less likely to suspend their disbelief to the point soaps ask them to. I’m not even talking about the fantastical elements like the weather machine and transplanted aborted fetuses, I’m talking stuff people would see done better in other shows.

For example, a crime scene that has not been fully investigated being left unwatched and then evidence gathered after anyone could have been in there. A character who once worked as a secretary in the police dept and took some CSI courses showing up
to a crime scene to collect evidence to prove she’s innocent. Not that the CSI shows are all that accurate but they at least show some believable police procedures.

Yeah, I still watch them sometimes because I’m home during the day and I don’t have cable or Internet (except my iPhone), if I had either of those I’d never look back.