NBC’s last-remaining soap opera, ‘Days of Our Lives,’ will leave the network in September for a new, more modern television home.
The news about the future of Days of Our Lives seemed sudden and long-expected at the same time. The show is, after all, the last soap NBC had. ABC only airs one soap these days, General Hospital. CBS airs the most soaps, with a whopping two: The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.
Some have been expecting the show’s cancellation for some time. For years now, we’ve seen speculation that the network would hand the long-running soap the pink slip.
But for those who’ve been expecting the sand to finally run out of the show’s famous hourglass, well, that’s not exactly what’s happening. At least, not yet.
‘Days’ to make historic move
The soap, which turns 57 in November, is leaving the airwaves, yes. But it will move to NBC’s streaming app Peacock. For soaps, which can skew toward older viewers, a cardinal sin in television these days, it may seem a weird idea to move one exclusively to a streaming app.
In ‘DOOL’s case, season-to-date, it was the least-watched daytime drama in viewers (1.8 million) and women 18-49 (.3 rating), Dateline reported.
Fans should probably rejoice that it’s not being canceled outright.
But the network says there’s a good indication streaming might just work.
Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBCUniversal television and streaming, told USA Today that a large percentage of the show’s audience is already watching digitally. I imagine that means a combination of cord-cutters who can’t get their NBC station’s signal because of a lack of antenna and those fans who work and catch up with the show on Peacock when they get home.
The show launched a streaming-only spinoff, Beyond Salem, which apparently performed well enough to make Peacock seem like a viable option for the main show. (Salem — no state has ever been mentioned — is the setting for the show’s action.)
Soap fans won’t like what’s coming in its place
The move, Lazarus says, gives NBC the chance to build what he called the show’s “loyal fan base.” But there’s another advantage. He says it also gives NBC the chance to offer “an urgent, live programming opportunity.”
That opportunity will be called NBC News Daily. Yes, more news from a network that has almost expanded its Today franchise into This Afternoon. The new offering will be anchored by four journalists with breaking news and “signature world-class reporting.”
For fans of soaps or even game shows, it’s a letdown. I get that.
When I was a kid, soaps dominated daytime television of the 1970s, sharing the space with a growing number of game shows. The soap genre’s downward spiral started in the 1970s. It was a slow decline, a “long goodbye” at first. Shows that had been staples for decades like Love of Life and Search for Tomorrow slowly faded away. (‘Search’ got picked up by NBC when CBS axed it, but it only lasted four years there.)
As the years came and went, so did soaps. The cancellation of the longest-running soap of all time, CBS’s Guiding Light, in 2009, after a total of 72 years on the air that stretched all the way into radio, made the handwriting on the wall that much more clear. The following year, CBS said goodbye to its next-longest-running sudser, As the World Turns. ABC, in recent years, killed its One Life to Live and All My Children.
NBC killed off its long-running Another World and its quirky Passions. The long list of soaps dwindled to just four.
But that’s not a surprise from an economic standpoint. Daytime dramas can be among the most expensive to produce because of their elaborate sets and large casts. By comparison, talk shows and news shows — even most game shows — can come in with smaller budgets.
With a shrinking audience, networks want to cut expenses where they can.
What’s curious here is the network isn’t necessarily cutting its expense if it’s still paying for the show. But by moving it to Peacock, it may be boosting subscribers there, which is also bringing potential new revenue for those who haven’t already subscribed.
The real question is whether the change will really prompt some of NBC’s most loyal daytime viewers to pay for Peacock.
We won’t start getting that answer until September when Days of Our Lives leaves the network.