Daytime soaps aim to please the youth market
''Another World'' ends its 35-year run, but will the move backfire on NBC?
For 2.8 million livid ”Another World” fans, Friday’s finale is the end of daytime as they know it. But that doesn’t mean other diehard soap devotees should start bringing out the sandwich boards just yet. Since April, when NBC announced the cancellation of ”Another World” (at 35 years, its longest- running soap) to debut ”Passions,” a new younger-skewing serial, viewers have decried the network’s obsession with youth. ”Their directive was to make the story lines younger,” says ”Another World” star Linda Dano, who played the flamboyant writer Felicia Gallant for 17 years. ”They are being shortsighted.” Mimi Torchin, editor in chief of Soap Opera Weekly, is more adamant. ”NBC will rue the day it decided to cancel ‘Another World,”’ she says. ”Yes, the ratings across-the-board are appalling for daytime, but there was an audience, and NBC just alienated it.”
NBC canceled ”Another World” while renewing the bikini-clad ”Sunset Beach,” even though that two-year-old show had almost one million fewer viewers and is dead last in ratings among the 11 daytime soaps. Why? Reportedly, because NBC believes the Aaron Spelling-produced ”Beach,” like ”Passions,” has greater potential to draw in the 12-to-18 and 18-to-34 demographic, a population sample advertisers adore. Tom DeCabia, a media buyer at Shulman-Advanswers, who has already bought spots on ”Passions” for clients like Ralston Purina and Sears Portraits Studio, likes that strategy: ”If ‘Passions’ can bring in a younger viewing audience and some buzz, then NBC is happier, and so are our clients. What’s more, the economics are in NBC’s favor if they can produce the new show at half the price of ‘Another World’ and still get a decent rating.”
Torchin disagrees. She believes the Peacock is mistakenly betting on the wrong audience. ”NBC has canceled more soaps than the other networks, because it just doesn’t understand daytime audiences,” she says. ”Fans don’t trust NBC with new shows. They know if the series isn’t profitable, it’ll probably get pulled.” Dano, who starting Monday will re-create the role of Gretel Rae Cummings, which she debuted 20 years ago, on ABC’s ”One Life to Live,” says NBC is the only network that keeps trying to target young viewers exclusively. ”Every network has tried writing young, but not in lieu of the other characters,” Dano tells EW Online. ”In daytime, it’s about family, generations of families, love affairs, and relationships, not age.”
In the end, NBC could lose out if viewers span the sands of time by sticking to ”Days of Our Lives” and ignoring the two newer soaps — and their sponsors. ”What advertisers can’t figure out is that kids change their minds all the time about what they want,” Torchin says. ”It’s grown-ups who make real buying decisions, and grown-ups want to see ‘Another World,’ not a show about young kids they can’t relate to.”