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OzFrog

What caused the failure of 80s and 90s Daytime Soaps

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If one has a look at the remaining four soaps on air, the youngest one is B&B, which was created in 1987. Otherwise the other three have come from the 60s and 70s.

 

What is it about other 80s/90s soaps like Capitol, Santa Barbara, Loving, Generations (along with Sunset Beach and Passions) that caused them to sputter out so relatively young? All soaps with such amazing potential and seemingly relevant to their times, and yet they die out after a few years while the stalwarts like Y&R, GH and DOOL have managed to outlast them and live on to this day?

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I think B&B really benefited from time slot and its stylistic similarities to its fellow Bell soap Y&R. It’s also interesting that the next youngest soap that survived deep into the 21st century was Y&R itself (1973), so you could really broaden the question as to why everything from the mid-‘70s on failed to survive. It says a lot about the trajectory of soaps as a viable genre. Unless they were mortally wounded by the early ‘80s, the established iconic soaps really overshadowed the newcomers.

 

Just as an addendum: watching soaps are a huge investment of time and profound emotion. (Not to mention work and $$$$ on the production side.) I suppose it’s easy to see why they’re so hard to get off the ground. A lot of the earlier soaps had the benefit of wide brand recognition and viewership that passed down through generations.

Edited by Faulkner

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B&B likely wouldn't be where it is (or even on the air) without the timeslot and the Sheila crossover, lets be honest. 

 

I loved the idea of Generations but I agree that Sussman ain't it. One of the genre's most boring writers 

Edited by Vizion

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1 hour ago, Marco Dane said:

Generations should've lasted longer...

Does anyone have any ideas of how they could've kept the show going?

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Generations had a slow start after nice hype, and 12:30/11:30 for NBC.was a graveyard time slot.

Also, affiliates opting not to air soaps at the designated time slots hurt.  Many a soap died in the 80s.and 90s cause of affiliates 

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2 hours ago, Faulkner said:

A lot of the earlier soaps had the benefit of wide brand recognition and viewership that passed down through generations.

 

And a significant lack of competition. Would viewers have watched the trials and tribulations of the Hughes family if they had even 10 other channels to watch? It's like the earlier soaps were all Coca-Cola and McDonald's, do they make the best soda or burgers around? Maybe not but they've got a ton of brand loyalty and like you said nothing can beat the generational aspect of soap watching. After a point it's just a family tradition.

 

It seems that a lot of the soaps created in the 80s and 90s were chasing trends as opposed to just making a good soap. Texas was a dollar store Dallas, Sunset Beach was trying to be a daytime version of 90210 or Melrose Place when the appetite for those shows was waning, Passions was NBC and Reilly trying to recreate the success of his Days without all the baggage.

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16 minutes ago, Vizion said:

B&B likely wouldn't be where it is (or even on the air) without the timeslot and the Sheila crossover, lets be honest. 

 

I loved the idea of Generations but I agree that Sussman ain't it. One of the genre's most boring writers 

I've said the same thing RE: B&B.  They gave it the slot after Y&R in alot of the country or after the noon news.  Capitol should have been given more of a chance.  It was cancelled with ratings in the middle of the pack.  It might have been the lowest rated CBS soap but they were determined to give another show to the Bells.  I remember one time one of the Soap magazines named Capitol's cast as the best looking in Daytime and they really were.  

Edited by Fevuh

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27 minutes ago, Darn said:

And a significant lack of competition. Would viewers have watched the trials and tribulations of the Hughes family if they had even 10 other channels to watch? It's like the earlier soaps were all Coca-Cola and McDonald's, do they make the best soda or burgers around? Maybe not but they've got a ton of brand loyalty and like you said nothing can beat the generational aspect of soap watching. After a point it's just a family tradition.

Totally. Same with reboots and revivals being so popular now. They’ve amassed all of this brand recognition when there was a monoculture. They are household names to begin with, and don’t need a lot of marketing investment to break through the flood of content.

 

One of the reasons why a revival of an old soap (on a different platform because the broadcast ship has sailed) would be waaay more viable than a new one, even though I’d love to see a clean slate of a daily program...

Edited by Faulkner

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13 minutes ago, Soaplovers said:

Generations had a slow start after nice hype, and 12:30/11:30 for NBC.was a graveyard time slot.

Once CBS moved Y&R to 12:30 pm ET where it would then really explode and eventually reach #1, that time slot became ABC and NBC's death slots.

 

10 minutes ago, Fevuh said:

I've said the same thing RE: B&B.  They gave it the slot after Y&R in alot of the country or after the noon news.  Capitol should have been given more of a chance.  It was cancelled with ratings in the middle of the pack.  It might have been the lowest rated CBS soap but they were determined to give another show to the Bells.  I remember one time one of the Soap magazines named Capitol's cast as the best looking in Daytime and they really were.  

My feeling is Capitol made it to air as CBS wanted something younger and more glamorous to compete with ABC but it's purpose was to be a placeholder/time filler until Bill Bell had a second show ready for CBS. I really think CBS wanted a second Bell show on the air in 1982, but Y&R was still in transition mode then so maybe Bill Bell decided to get Y&R settled before working on a second show.

 

Bill Bell himself mentioned CBS first approached him about a second show in 1977 so if he had one ready then, Guiding Light probably doesn't go to 1 hour that year. Maybe a late 1970s Bell show might have had that Chicago newspaper setting that I thought Rags was going to be. The conflict could have been an old money established family that runs the long time legitimate newspaper and a family that runs an upstart tabloid newspaper.

 

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35 minutes ago, Vizion said:

B&B likely wouldn't be where it is (or even on the air) without the timeslot and the Sheila crossover, lets be honest. 

 

I loved the idea of Generations but I agree that Sussman ain't it. One of the genre's most boring writers 

 

I mentioned this on the 90s Ratings thread in the Cancelled Soaps group. Even as early as 1990 (three years into its run), B&B was hitting Top 5 in overall households, sometimes getting as high as #3 in 1991. And this was way before Sheila even crossed over from Y&R (incidentally 1990 was when that storyline was just starting on Y&R).

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4 hours ago, Soaplovers said:

Generations had a slow start after nice hype, and 12:30/11:30 for NBC.was a graveyard time slot.

Also, affiliates opting not to air soaps at the designated time slots hurt.  Many a soap died in the 80s.and 90s cause of affiliates 

 

I was just going to say this. There's many factors that led to the failure of new soaps in the 80s/90s. A major one was the handling of new soaps by affiliates. We know how networks and affiliates ended up killing established soaps with schedule changes or moves to graveyard slots, but the same was true for new soaps. Many times new soaps were not getting clearance or getting aired at ridiculous time slots from the very beginning because affiliates refused to give networks back time. Santa Barabra was poorly treated by affiliates once ratings didn't prove to be to their liking. This among other reasons led to its demise. 

 

Competing against established soaps. Another issue with new soaps in the 80s and 90s is that many times these new shows were seen as the solution to another failing show. The majority of new soaps in the 80s and 90s were essentially time slot replacements for already poor performing soaps. The expectation is that these new soaps will save the timeslot and do it quickly - which networks should have known was not the case with soaps. Another issue with this is that the slots these soaps were expected to replace were already hosting a lower rated offering, which were scheduled against major competition thus giving the soap little room to attract an audience. To use Santa Barbara again, it was scheduled up against GL and GH which were both performing well in 83. SB was supposed to pull in a young audience all the while competing directly with two major 80s soaps. Even still Santa Barbara did okay and was widely popular overseas. Who is to say how it would have faired in a better slot. To add to this, the traditional soap audience was decreasing steadily since the 70s as more married women were joining the workforce instead of becoming housewives. So audiences weren't growing, but the expectation was that these soaps would somehow attract the 18-49 demo, the primary audience decreasing. I don't know if networks thought there was some kind of plethora of housewives that they could attract or if they believed their new soaps would steal audiences from the competition. 

 

Expensive. Soaps in the 80s and early 90s were up against quite some major productions in soaps hey day. Soaps are an expensive investment and networks weren't shelling out big budgets to underperforming soaps. While new soaps in the 80s did get a nice budget in advance to launch, when numbers weren't up to par, those budgets were drastically cut and they still were expected to compete with the likes of soaps now doing major location shoots, building insane sets for minor action storylines, and just overall grandiose production values. (This was also true for failing soaps - many of the underperforming soaps were put under extreme stress often having budgets cut drastically while also expected to increase ratings in a short period of time while working under new restraints. Not realistic)

 

Emotional attachment. As already mentioned, soaps are based on attachment. We grow to connect with these characters so deeply because we are invested. We watch them everyday and have seen them go through every trial and tribulation. Creating this attachment takes time, hence the previous point of expense/budget being key. A new soap isn't going to lure viewers based on familiarity so they needed to appeal in appearance/production but without a budget comparable to the competition. 

 

Competition. In the 80s and 90s, talk shows boomed. Audiences tuned into these shows that often exposed the outrageous lives of real people. Also, the 90s saw the growth of major competition from cable networks. All this before OJ even happened.

 

And to add, the new soaps of the 80s and 90s were all meant to attract this ever decreasing 18-49 demo which ultimately alienated a large group of soap viewers. 

Edited by GLATWT88

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