It's the Writing, Stupid
In the latest issue of Soap Opera Digest, there's an article called "How To Save Soaps." I highly recommend checking it out, because it gives a bit of fascinating insight into the people who run the daytime industry. Be forewarned, though, that reading it may make you think that So You Want To Ruin Soaps... is an actual book written by soap execs. Here are a couple of the bigwigs' suggestions for rescuing the genre:
"The hope is definitely to cross-platform and drive people who watch WORLD TURNS to INTURN and vice-versa. . . . That's part of the original concept: put ourselves out there and reach an audience who don't necessarily watch the show, but are online watching original programming." - Richard Mensing, VP of CBS Daytime East Coast
"When you talk to viewers, especially women, who've stopped watching, the majority of the time they say it's because their life changed . . . When I look at my business, which is making about 750 hours of soap opera a year, my job is to make sure as many see these shows as possible, whether that's on ABC or DVR of ABC, or SOAPnet, or a DVR of SOAPnet, and hopefully one day online, on your mobile phone or whatever." - Brian Frons, President, Daytime, Disney-ABC Television Group
I just . . . seriously?! The problem with soaps, as far as I can tell, and as I've already likely alienated a good percentage of SOD's readership by saying, is that they're just not as good anymore. They lost the giants of soap writing and are now passing around head writing jobs to the same handful of people over and over again, and unsurprisingly very little fresh and creative stories emerge as a result. I don't pretend this is scientific, but how many people do you know who would say "I would totally watch soaps, if only I could do so on my cell phone," versus how many would say "I would watch soaps if they didn't suck"?
There were some insightful comments, however:
"Here we are again thinking, 'Well, how are you going to get the kids to watch?' Just tell great story. Great story is timeless. . . . I know the numbers are down, but all you need is one person at a time. And you can't underestimate them or let them down." - Robin Strasser
"I don't think that it's the lifestyle changes and all of those things that we blamed it on for years. . . . So many of the prime-time shows have become serialized, feeding that hunger for that kind of programming and it just absolutely says the form has not died. These shows are losing people because the audience just doesn't care anymore. The product, by and large, has to be fantastic in order to survive." - Michael Logan
I agree with Michael Logan.* I feel icky. Quick, someone get me an episode of mid-90s GH to cheer me up. But only if it's via a mobile phone. What are you, Amish?
* D'oh! I'm a moron (with a bad headache) and confused Michaels. My bad. Thanks to andemcbeal for pointing out my gaffe. I don't really know much about Logan. And I do feel better now that I can continue to loathe the dude on I Wanna Be a Soap Star. Not that I watch it.