General Soap Operas

Special Report: Will Soap Operas Survive the Future? The Uneasy Truth

daytime soap operas soaps SpecialReport

Sunday night, a last-minute deal was reached, saving the Writers Guild of America from going on strike – thus giving our favorite soap operas a reprieve from danger.

But a strike isn’t the only threat they face, as declining ratings (and that’s being kind – some would say they’re in free-fall) have always been the harbinger of bad things to come in the past.

Decades ago (meaning before cable news offered limitless options), soap operas were the bread and butter for every network. The revenue they brought in actually funded most of the primetime shows you also loved.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case anymore. So you have declining ratings, ballooning production overhead, huge casts/salaries, and slashed budgets – which many would say create a recipe for disaster. But, the news isn’t all bad.

At one time, the only option out there for soaps were the Big Three – NBC, ABC, and CBS. Shows like The Bay and Venice: The Series have proven you can be successful with a smaller cast, private funding, and various digital platforms for distribution.

While this didn’t help All My Children and One Life to Live in the end, those shows had other issues that helped aid their online downfall. When a network owns the show, it may actually be able to aid the transition to another platform.

There are other things that could help, but it might be painful for the audience. Production alternatives (think Guiding Light using outdoor sets) can be used and casts can be trimmed (think less use of expensive vets and more newbies) – all to save shows and keep them on the air.

Granted every news story of yet another veteran departing our favorite show can be depressing, but in the end, it may be saving three other actors their jobs.

Also, head writing has become more of a chess game than something creative, figuring out which characters you have and can play what days — and what sets can be used when.

These things can upset the audience, but it may be the price we pay for keeping the shows on the air.

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