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mikelyons

15? 30? 45? 60? 90? Which is the best and worst runtime for soaps?

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I'm surprised these streaming platforms haven't attempted to do their own soap opera. I think a 30 minutes soap like BB with about 19-22 minute long episodes, if executed properly can do well on these platforms. It will also help them by holding onto viewers that subscribe to watch a particular series and then cancel when done binging as this will run continuously and it will also bring back viewers regularly to watch and then move onto other content on the platform. 19 minutes doesn't seem like much of a commitment which is beneficial with today's fickle viewership. 

 

I'm sure there are many factors which have also kept these streaming services away, like production cost, a long-term commitment as most shows have a small episode order, and the performance of current soaps on TV. Either way, it would be interesting to see how soaps with perform on streaming platforms with a fresh perspective. 

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For me, it would depend on the writing, but I would lean more towards 60 minutes. Looking at some old 30-minute soaps, they did a lot of exposition scenes. Two people have a conversation or interaction and the particulars of that event are then retold at least one other time, if not more, to other people, who then continue to talk about it amongst themselves. Some of it was necessary to make other people aware of the event for story purposes but, beyond that, it got repetitive.  Granted, it likely resembled real daily life in that sense, plus it probably also made people feel so familiar with the characters. In the 60s and 70s, with fewer options, the audience was probably used to that and the resulting longer play-out of storylines. Write like that now and it would probably bore people who want to see more action-driven stories, or something more than characters having repeated conversations about the same incident. In this case, 30-minute soaps would take too long for most people's tastes at this time to tell a story. If I were having to watch Ryan's Hope and Dark Shadows now in real time (an episode a day, no fast forwarding option), I would probably fall away from them from getting tired of the repetitiveness of dialogue.

For years now, I've tended to watch dramas rather than sitcoms...some serialized, some stand-alone, some sci-fi, some real-life based. I like being told a story that builds up in that episode, has conflict and may or may not get resolved in the same hour. It's hard to do that in 30 minutes with any real depth. 
 

Edited by applcin

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13 hours ago, applcin said:

For me, it would depend on the writing, but I would lean more towards 60 minutes. Looking at some old 30-minute soaps, they did a lot of exposition scenes. Two people have a conversation or interaction and the particulars of that event are then retold at least one other time, if not more, to other people, who then continue to talk about it amongst themselves. Some of it was necessary to make other people aware of the event for story purposes but, beyond that, it got repetitive.  

 

I get what you're saying but I loved those scenes! Back when I was not used to primetime drama, I was always annoyed at being deprived of the characters' reactions to things.

Edited by Aback

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The best is probably 30 minutes. Nice, succinct, tighter focus.

 

There are exceptions - if any soap really benefits from being an hour, it was classic Y&R, who had the time and space to unfold things in their own, measured pace.

 

7 minutes ago, Aback said:

I get what you're saying but I loved those scenes! Back when I was not used to primetime drama, I was always annoyed at being deprived of the characters' reactions to things.

 

It's the classic daytime vs primetime debate. I've always loved the talk scenes too. Daytime has the time to do them; if they are done well, they provide character interactions and character work. It still annoys me today that we don't see characters react to things in primetime that much. 

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1 hour ago, Aback said:

 

I get what you're saying but I loved those scenes! Back when I was not used to primetime drama, I was always annoyed at being deprived of the characters' reactions to things.


Oh, I enjoyed them up to a point, too. I just think people nowadays have a mix of shorter attention spans, more options, less time or patience, desire for "shock and awe", etc. Back then, that's what we knew and choices were limited so, of course, we watched. Using the 2 soaps I mentioned before...in the case of RH, I think it worked well in the sense that you really got familiar with the characters, their frustrations, flaws, family interactions, motivations, etc. Very realistic to have people repeat conversations and stories, just like people do in real life...and those conversations often colored the characters' interactions with one another. How many people heard about the Ryans or Delia's shenanigans before getting to know either well enough on their own? I've recently started binging DS on Amazon (up to where Barnabas is about to debut) and I made mention in another post of how that early period seemed very slow-moving and repetitive, talking about the same incidents and with not much in the way of action. Even in binging mode, it seemed to drag on. For someone to watch that in real time now, I wonder if they wouldn't give up pretty quickly. That being said, I have never watched the current 30-minute soap "The Bold and The Beautiful" (not sure what the acronym is, BB??) so I'm not familiar with its storytelling pacing. Has it changed in the years it's been on? If someone were to be introduced to it now, how would it seem?

Conversely, if they were to write without a lot of that exposition now, that might cause a certain disconnect or disinterest with a viewer who's interested in character building. I just think, with anything less than 60 minutes, they're having to make decisions of how much do they show and tell in an episode, drawing and maintaining viewer interest over a longer period of time to tell a story. Do they spread it out over time and risk viewer impatience or sacrifice more in-depth character study for the action?

It just came to my mind the 30-minute soap that probably depicted these differences in storytelling the best: Port Charles. We started out with a conventional soap with conventional characters, much like any other soap. Somewhere it was decided that wasn't working and the whole format was changed. The hospital setting was now an accessory rather than a focus. A continuous throughline became 13-week arcs that were told independently of each other. Character buildup and personalities were tossed aside to accommodate the plots that were now supernatural. How many new viewers took notice? How many current viewers liked it or hated it? In the new arc format, it was already a given that, for better or worse, a particular story was going to be told in that amount of time. They did what they had to do to make the story work...turned heroes into villains, destroyed long-term relationships, etc. By the next arc, that could get changed again. It all comes back to the writing and pacing.
 

Edited by applcin

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38 minutes ago, applcin said:


Oh, I enjoyed them up to a point, too. I just think people nowadays have a mix of shorter attention spans, more options, less time or patience, desire for "shock and awe", etc. Back then, that's what we knew and choices were limited so, of course, we watched. Using the 2 soaps I mentioned before...in the case of RH, I think it worked well in the sense that you really got familiar with the characters, their frustrations, flaws, family interactions, motivations, etc. Very realistic to have people repeat conversations and stories, just like people do in real life...and those conversations often colored the characters' interactions with one another. How many people heard about the Ryans or Delia's shenanigans before getting to know either well enough on their own? I've recently started binging DS on Amazon (up to where Barnabas is about to debut) and I made mention in another post of how that early period seemed very slow-moving and repetitive, talking about the same incidents and with not much in the way of action. Even in binging mode, it seemed to drag on. For someone to watch that in real time now, I wonder if they wouldn't give up pretty quickly. That being said, I have never watched the current 30-minute soap "The Bold and The Beautiful" (not sure what the acronym is, BB??) so I'm not familiar with its storytelling pacing. Has it changed in the years it's been on? If someone were to be introduced to it now, how would it seem?

Conversely, if they were to write without a lot of that exposition now, that might cause a certain disconnect or disinterest with a viewer who's interested in character building. I just think, with anything less than 60 minutes, they're having to make decisions of how much do they show and tell in an episode, drawing and maintaining viewer interest over a longer period of time to tell a story. Do they spread it out over time and risk viewer impatience or sacrifice more in-depth character study for the action?

It just came to my mind the 30-minute soap that probably depicted these differences in storytelling the best: Port Charles. We started out with a conventional soap with conventional characters, much like any other soap. Somewhere it was decided that wasn't working and the whole format was changed. The hospital setting was now an accessory rather than a focus. A continuous throughline became 13-week arcs that were told independently of each other. Character buildup and personalities were tossed aside to accommodate the plots that were now supernatural. How many new viewers took notice? How many current viewers liked it or hated it? In the new arc format, it was already a given that, for better or worse, a particular story was going to be told in that amount of time. They did what they had to do to make the story work...turned heroes into villains, destroyed long-term relationships, etc. By the next arc, that could get changed again. It all comes back to the writing and pacing.
 

I get your argument, but I feel is more of effective in discussing 60-minute soaps than it is in discussing 30-minute soaps. The characteristics of 30-minute soaps that you've described are due more to the period in which 30-minute soaps reigned (1960s and 1970s) than they are to the 30-minute format. This was before the VCR age, before the turn to action/adventure storylines, before the desperate pursuit of younger audiences, etc. Even Ryan's Hope, as a half-hour soap, was affected by these and became less dialogue-heavy as time went on.

For the record, I'm a big fan of dialogue-heavy soaps for the reasons @YRBB gave. When daytime was presided over by the classic writers, those scenes created a strong sense of character, relationships, and community. Agnes or Irna, I can't remember which one, called it "the luxury of time." Soaps had it, no other medium did, and once upon a time, soaps were soaps and catered to people who wanted to watch soaps.

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29 minutes ago, All My Shadows said:

I get your argument, but I feel is more of effective in discussing 60-minute soaps than it is in discussing 30-minute soaps. The characteristics of 30-minute soaps that you've described are due more to the period in which 30-minute soaps reigned (1960s and 1970s) than they are to the 30-minute format. This was before the VCR age, before the turn to action/adventure storylines, before the desperate pursuit of younger audiences, etc. Even Ryan's Hope, as a half-hour soap, was affected by these and became less dialogue-heavy as time went on.


That's why I asked the questions about B&B, since it has the distinction of being not only the sole 30-minute soap today but also one that's been on since the 1980s, offering up a comparison of their old vs. modern storytelling styles and viewership. Could that serve as a barometer for measuring how a new 30-minute soap might do? 

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Also- when Labine was at RH and later at GH, she wrote them dialog heavy.  GH had longer scenes filled with dialog when she got there.  It never felt like it dragged to me, but that was also a more modern time than the 1970’s.

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30 mins. It this age with all the entertainment options to choose from, it's much easier for someone to keep up with a 30 min soap. If you decide to binge a week's worth at once, and fast forward through the commercials, it adds up to the average length of a movie, which isn't bad.   

 

It's also better from a production standpoint in my opinion as well. I feel like 30 min soaps are more focused, the stories keep moving forward and you don't have characters having the same conversations day in and day out, just to fill time. 

 

I feel like Brad Bell does a really poor job taking advantage of B&B being 30 mins. I've watched several European soaps on and off, they are all mostly 30 mins and do a great job overall. 

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On 4/27/2020 at 4:23 PM, wingwalker said:

30 mins. It this age with all the entertainment options to choose from, it's much easier for someone to keep up with a 30 min soap. If you decide to binge a week's worth at once, and fast forward through the commercials, it adds up to the average length of a movie, which isn't bad.   

 

It's also better from a production standpoint in my opinion as well. I feel like 30 min soaps are more focused, the stories keep moving forward and you don't have characters having the same conversations day in and day out, just to fill time. 

 

I feel like Brad Bell does a really poor job taking advantage of B&B being 30 mins. I've watched several European soaps on and off, they are all mostly 30 mins and do a great job overall. 

Brad Bell can't tell a story. B&B would have been better off a decade ago if he handed off the show to a competent head writer and simply produced the show. That's all I'll say because I don't want to spill the tea (as they say...).

On 4/27/2020 at 9:02 AM, All My Shadows said:

I get your argument, but I feel is more of effective in discussing 60-minute soaps than it is in discussing 30-minute soaps. The characteristics of 30-minute soaps that you've described are due more to the period in which 30-minute soaps reigned (1960s and 1970s) than they are to the 30-minute format. This was before the VCR age, before the turn to action/adventure storylines, before the desperate pursuit of younger audiences, etc. Even Ryan's Hope, as a half-hour soap, was affected by these and became less dialogue-heavy as time went on.

For the record, I'm a big fan of dialogue-heavy soaps for the reasons @YRBB gave. When daytime was presided over by the classic writers, those scenes created a strong sense of character, relationships, and community. Agnes or Irna, I can't remember which one, called it "the luxury of time." Soaps had it, no other medium did, and once upon a time, soaps were soaps and catered to people who wanted to watch soaps.

I believe Irna said that either just before or just after the launch of ATWT

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1 hour ago, mikelyons said:

Brad Bell can't tell a story. B&B would have been better off a decade ago if he handed off the show to a competent head writer and simply produced the show. That's all I'll say because I don't want to spill the tea (as they say...).


Oh go on!! 🍵 

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I actually found an article online a few days ago and I wish I had saved it, but it mentioned how returning soaps to 30 minutes might be the future of soaps. I believe it was written in the late 2000s and it was obviously wishful thinking as we know that networks actually preferred canceling soaps altogether rather than reducing their runtime. It mentioned that GL and OLTL might be the first soaps to experiment with the time reduction as they were the lowest rated. 

 

I always hoped networks would have reduced GL and ATWT as well as AMC and OLTL into 30 minute shows and package them as an hour block to affiliates. It would ultimately give affiliates an hour back in programming while still maintaining the shows on air where fans were used to tuning in to watch. Shifting OLTL and AMC online was a nice thought but it changed the entire dynamic of how people ordinarily consume their soaps...it wasn't like they were experimenting with new soaps. They were taking already established soaps and changing the familiarity as far as consumption for the audience.

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27 minutes ago, GLATWT88 said:

I actually found an article online a few days ago and I wish I had saved it, but it mentioned how returning soaps to 30 minutes might be the future of soaps. I believe it was written in the late 2000s and it was obviously wishful thinking as we know that networks actually preferred canceling soaps altogether rather than reducing their runtime. It mentioned that GL and OLTL might be the first soaps to experiment with the time reduction as they were the lowest rated. 

 

I always hoped networks would have reduced GL and ATWT as well as AMC and OLTL into 30 minute shows and package them as an hour block to affiliates. It would ultimately give affiliates an hour back in programming while still maintaining the shows on air where fans were used to tuning in to watch. Shifting OLTL and AMC online was a nice thought but it changed the entire dynamic of how people ordinarily consume their soaps...it wasn't like they were experimenting with new soaps. They were taking already established soaps and changing the familiarity as far as consumption for the audience.

I agree with you about reducing the struggling hours to half-hour shows and then selling the hour as a block. That would have been smart for CBS and ABC. The networks seem to forget that they can have a higher CPM in a half-hour soap versus an hour soap opera because there are fewer ads. Scarcity leads to higher ad prices. CBS could reduce Y&R to half an hour, lose one soundstage, halve the cast/crew/staff, up the ad price, and suddenly they'd have a very profitable show!

15 hours ago, Aback said:


Oh go on!! 🍵 

Oh, maybe another day! That's what I get for cruising message boards after three cocktails!

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