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NBC’s Days of Our Lives: Headed for Cancellation?

Updated on May 6, 2015

Like Sands Through The Hourglass...

Are Soaps A Dying Genre?

Rumors are rampant that long-time NBC stalwart soap opera, Days of Our Lives is headed for cancellation, despite it winning the 2015 Daytime Emmy Award for Best Drama Series (tied with CBS’ Young and the Restless).

It is not an uncommon situation for such shows.

Soaps have been on the decline for quite some time in the United States. Consider that twenty years ago there were ten weekday dramas on the air.

Now there are four: Young and the Restless; Bold and the Beautiful; General Hospital and Days of Our Lives.

Consider that in their heyday of the 1980s, there were as many as fifteen soaps on TV.

Things do not look good for the future of the genre for the long haul.

Further compounding matters is the wealth of daytime talk shows, many of which contain “real” elements from the seedy personal life dramas of the common person, are cheaper to produce and bring results in the much-coveted ratings department.


Bo's Headed to Salem

Hold the phones, Peter Reckell's returning for the 50th anniversary.
Hold the phones, Peter Reckell's returning for the 50th anniversary.

Steve "Patch" Johnson Returning as Well

Stephen Nichols is also returning for the anniversary.
Stephen Nichols is also returning for the anniversary.

Fueling the Recent Fire

There are a number of factors that spiked the rumors regarding Days of Our Lives pending doom.

  1. Unsustainable ratings. Their most recent available numbers (for the week ending April 24, 2015) show them last, overall amongst the four soap operas. The numbers also show that their viewership is down a total of 99,000 viewers from a year ago. They also are last amongst women viewers in the age 18-49 range, which is their main target audience.
  2. Cast departures. Within the last year, the exit of popular performers Alison Sweeney (Sami Brady) and James Scott (E.J. Dimera) seemingly rocked the show. Since then, a number of lesser- tenured members of the talent base have either left or have announced their pending departure. Such turnover is extremely difficult to trace via the ratings system but it is not unreasonable to posit that when stars leave, some fans seem to go as well.
  3. Head writing team changes. A new duo took over in February. This is not a regular but not an uncommon occurrence on any show. It is designed to bring change and increase viewership.
  4. Sony Executive's Hacked Emails in Wiki Leaks. A number of the emails between executives show that they are looking for something less expensive to replace the long-time show. Other emails show a discussion regarding the show’s possible cancellation following its 50th anniversary in the fall of this year.



The Real Problem with US Soaps

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.”

The real truth is that, for the remainder of their existence, soaps will constantly struggle to keep away from cancellations.

The other truth is that they are very expensive to produce. Give that notion, it baffles me to wonder why they wouldn’t want to expose the shows to the largest possible audience in order to garner the highest ratings and increase their ad revenue.

One would think the powers that be seem to have it in for the genre and are seem to want to set it up for failure.

No amount talent shifts in front of and behind the camera will make a long-term difference.

Keep in mind that there has been no official comment regarding the state of Days of Our Lives. It's not uncommon in the bureaucracy of the corporate world.

Still, such a venerable moneymaker for the network would deserve the respect of a statement, whether it's thumbs up or thumbs down.

To me, it shows how little they think of the show.

Sami's Returning

Allison Sweeney recently announced on social media that she'll be back for the 50th celebration.
Allison Sweeney recently announced on social media that she'll be back for the 50th celebration.

Not Without a Fight

Like many ratings-challenged show, Days of Our Lives moves forward with plans or at least hopes to improve their situation.

In addition to the new head writing team, the producers hope to ramps things up around their upcoming anniversary on November 8th.

The producers have secured the returns (albeit temporarily) of fan favorites Peter Reckell (Bo Brady) and Stephen Nichols (Steve “Patch” Johnson). Also, the previously mentioned Alison Sweeney is scheduled to make a short-term comeback.

Still, one could reasonably think that they might need more up their sleeves to improve their lot.

Maybe Their Time Has Come

When the show first started in 1965 about the lives and loves of those in the fictitious Mid-western town of Salem, few thought it would endure a half-century and more than twelve-thousand episodes.

It also was a very different world back then.

Soap Operas were originally conceived back in the glory days of radio. Produced by the manufacturers of soap products (hence the moniker), they were daily dramas that designed to pique the interest of housewives who largely stayed at home to raise their families and keep their homes. The relative captive status of these women provided an enormous built-in audience that successfully followed “their stories” when they make the shift to the new medium of television.

One of the challenges of soap operas was the enormous workload in putting out five episodes a week times fifty-two weeks per year.

The turnaround time in putting huge amounts of product hasn’t always resulted in quality. Such a criticism to that point has been largely leveled at soap opera writing and acting.

Further adding to their problems stemmed from, over the decades, a significant decline in stay-at-home wives/moms. Since they were the prime focus of the soap’s audience, it was a critical blow to viewership and advertising revenue, something from which they’ve never really recovered.

Keep in mind that soap operas are a world-wide phenomenon.

If you were to do a survey about the industry in other countries, you will find that these shows are now largely produced for early evening prime time television.

The reason for this is to give the shows at chance at as large an audience as possible. Subsequently, they are doing quite well.

For example, in the United Kingdom, which has a population of 64 million people, there are several soaps. Its longest-running show, Coronation Street, is currently considered in a ratings slump with an estimated audience of over 6.7 million viewers for a single recent episode.

That’s considered bad with an estimated 10 percent of the population watching the show.

On the other hand, consider the recent available ratings (for April, 2015) for soaps in US. The total audience for all four shows, combined, comes to 12 million viewers for twenty episodes.

The US has 320 million people.


The Real Problem with US Soaps

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.”

The real truth is that, for the remainder of their existence, soaps will constantly struggle to keep away from cancellations.

The other truth is that they are very expensive to produce. Give that notion, it baffles me to wonder why they wouldn’t want to expose the shows to the largest possible audience in order to garner the highest ratings and increase their ad revenue.

One would think the powers that be seem to have it in for the genre and are seem to want to set it up for failure.

No amount talent shifts in front of and behind the camera will make a long-term difference unless the productions and their networks commit to sustainable changes.

There has been no comment, thus far, from the powers that be, on the recent speculation.

One would think that such venerable production, which has made billions for the network, deserves the respect of a verbal vote of confidence or the darker opposite.

To me, that shows how little the network thinks of the show.

50th Anniversary Tribute from the Daytime Emmys

What Do You Think?

Will Days Of Our Lives Survive?

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