Where did the soap fans go during the pandemic? The latest soap opera ratings aren’t painting a great picture as new episodes started airing.
CBS received bad news about soap opera ratings as its top-rated The Young and the Restless returned with new episodes. It turns out Y&R averaged a series low 2.7 million viewers for its first full week back with new episodes, TVLine reported.
A series low.
As I told you back in April, CBS’s last two remaining soap operas, Y&R and The Bold and the Beautiful literally ran out of new episodes in the spring. Soap operas produce shows in advance — although each show is different about how far ahead they tape.
But they lost that buffer of new shows when the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to shut down production.
Y&R initially switched to a four-day week with new episodes as their stockpile dwindled. They would run classic episodes on Fridays. That gave them a few extra weeks of new shows.
Then both Y&R and B&B were forced into running theme weeks to look back at classic moments. They had plenty of shows to choose from. The Young and the Restless premiered way back in 1973. The Bold and the Beautiful made its debut in 1987.
ABC’s last-remaining soap and the oldest, General Hospital, which premiered in 1963, ran out of new episodes in May.
Only NBC’s Days of Our Lives, which first aired in 1965, kept new episodes rolling out. They’ve somehow managed to get about eight months ahead of schedule. I can’t begin to imagine how they get that far ahead in a daily series…but it gave them a corner of the market on new episodes when everyone else shut down.
But ‘Y&R’ wasn’t the only soap opera ratings victim.
The Bold and the Beautiful also dropped to a series low, Daytime Confidential reported.
General Hospital’s ratings were down slightly when its new episodes returned.
So you’d think that would put Days of Our Lives at a major ratings advantage. It worked out that way briefly when the other shows went into reruns. Since then, though, its ratings recorded “a slow slide into all-time lows,” the site reported.
So where are soap fans?
I suspect they’ll be back. Those who chose to “explore” other programming when their shows moved to reruns are likely just being slow to get back. But I’ll say this: pieces I’ve seen of shows that have made their return feel different. There’s definite social distancing going on. It’s much more obvious in some scenes than in others. The mood feels off. The close relationships soap characters share often depends on on-screen chemistry and on-screen proximity.
As the pandemic eases off, assuming it does eventually, when that mix returns to a balance, I’d expect the shows to pick up some of their lost viewers.
In the meantime, I have to give the shows credit for working so hard to jump through hurdles to get back into production.
The genre took a beating over the past couple of years. We’re down to only four soaps left when daytime television served as the home to more than a dozen for decades.
I’d hate to see them die off entirely.
Hopefully, those viewers will find their way back to their favorite storylines and characters. The last thing we need is more talk shows.