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April 23, 2014

TV Squad Soap Report: SOAPnet's boom and a Mad Men memory

by Allison Waldman, posted Oct 1st 2008 8:41AM
logo tv soapDid you see Mad Men recently? As part of Harry's creating a TV division at the Sterling Cooper ad agency, he was made responsible for screening scripts of TV fare so that the content pleased/satisfied/supported the advertisers' desires. Interestingly, it was Joan -- the office manager/head secretary -- who was given the scripts to read and her main focus of As the World Turns.

She became completely engrossed in the 1962 Oakdale story in which a character came to from a coma with a new personality. Her enthusiasm for the soap story convinced the advertisers to back As the World Turns rather than Love of Life, another CBS soap at the time.

Mad Men was historically accurate about As the World Turns. It was the top-rated soap opera for 20 years -- 1958-1978 -- and in 1962 (the year in which Mad Men is currently set), ATWT had increased its share from 47.7 to 53.7 in just a year. It was the soap on the rise and over half all TVs on in daytime were watching this CBS soap.

Today, of course, no TV shows have that kind of draw. Daytime numbers have been on the decline for over a decade, thanks in part to the competition. In 1962, for instance, there was only a few channels to watch. No cable, no satellites, no DVDs, no DVRs to facilitate time shifting, and no SOAPnet or online outlets to watch rebroadcasts of daily fare. In other words, if you wanted to watch As the World Turns or any other soap back then, you had to arrange your schedule to be there in front of the set.

There was a line in Mad Men by one of the clients in the meeting with Harry and Joan; he said that his daughter raced home from school to watch "her stories." That's what the soaps still are, by the way. Our stories. Our characters. Our favorites. When I was in college, I scheduled classes so I could get back to my dorm room to watch Days of Our Lives and Another World. On my first job, my fellow workers would schedule breaks to catch 15 minutes of All My Children, or a few scenes of General Hospital.

Is it any wonder that the daytime ratings aren't were they once were? Convenience and innovation have changed the landscape, and I'm grateful for that. My favorite way to catch up on the soaps now is SOAPnet, and just yesterday the cable network announced that it has surpassed the 70 million household subscriber milestone. According to the latest figures from Nielsen Media Research, the network is in 70,134, 000 homes as of August 2008. That's one of the top cable channels for women (by comparison, number one is Lifetime with 96 million.)

While ABC daytime chief underscored SOAPnet's success by pointing to the original programming, it's the reruns of the soaps that brings viewers in my opinion. Daily repurposing, weekly marathons, a cable destination just for the soap fans, that's why SOAPnet works.

It's funny, in 1962 when Mad Men is set, As the World Turns was number one. Today, it's in the middle of the pack, sometimes up, sometimes down. If I had the ear of P&G, the company behind ATWT (and Guiding Light, too), I'd urge them to get their soaps into SOAPNet's wheel. It sure couldn't hurt and it might help a whole lot.

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Melissa

I don't know what I'd do without my Soapnet. Even though I have a DVR and I use it to tape General Hospital religiously, sometimes there's a break in by the network (which shows the lack of respect for daytime, they'd NEVER break into Grey's Anatomy for something as idiotic as they have for GH), and I turn to Soapnet for the full episode. I don't think the network should ever forget the reason it's in 70 million homes. For those soap fans without DVRs and who can't schedule their life around the shows, they certainly don't have to miss it now. They should factor in the ratings from Soapnet and I bet the numbers would double.

October 02 2008 at 8:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
divineparasite

My brother and I watch SoapNet for catching "The O.C.", we don't really care much for the daytime re-arings. We'd personally like to see more prime-time series. Lifetime used to air "Party of Five" but don't anymore, we think SoapNet would be the perfect place for "Party of Five" as well, and with the popularity of Matthew Fox's "Lost" and Jennifer Love Hewitt's "Ghost Whisperer", it would be great to see that now classic series they once starred in. Sure there are the DVDs, but we aren't looking to own the show, just would like to watch it.

October 01 2008 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ann B Martin

I keep Soapnet on all night! I turn it on during the commercials of my night shows!
Love Soap net!

October 01 2008 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
C C

I know about that As the World Turns storyline-thanks to my mom. Jeff Baker and Penny Hughes were in a car crash which killed Jeff and left Penny in a coma. Mark Rydell played Jeff and was incredibly popular; he left the show to pursue stardom in Hollywood, leaving As the World Turns fans bereft, including my great-grandmother Creola. Creola was so invested in the show she believed he was dead in real life. My mom tried to explain to her that yes, "Jeff" was dead, but Mark Rydell was alive and was going to become a big star and they would see him again in the future. She didn't get it.

October 01 2008 at 11:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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