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MBPT Spotlight: Total Daytime Soap Viewership Down Only 3.4% But Audiences Are Aging Up

First the relatively good news for marketers—live broadcast network daytime soap opera viewership is cumulatively down only about 3.4% season-to-date in this era of growing time-delayed TV watching. However, the bad news is that this decline comes after the soaps during the same period last season had increased their live viewership by 10%. And the further bad news—according to Nielsen ratings data, the viewer declines are primarily in the women 18-49 and women 25-54 demo groups, with loses being offset a bit by an influx of older viewers.

Taking the biggest hit has been NBC’s Days of Our Lives, which is down 9% in viewership to 2.45 million viewers. CBS’ The Young and The Restless is down 4% but off a larger base, which now totals 4.78 million viewers daily, making it the most-watched daytime soap. Both CBS’ TheBold and The Beautiful and ABC’s General Hospital are down only 1% in total viewers, averaging 3.73 million and 2.94 million, respectively.

As a cumulative group, the soaps are still averaging 13.9 million live-plus-same-day viewers, compared to 14.4 million last season.

Days of Our Lives is losing a significant chunk of viewers across the board, down 16% among women 18-49 and 12% among women 25-54. While General Hospital is down just 1% in overall viewers, it is down 19% among women 18-49 and 17% among women 25-54.

The two CBS soaps are in better shape. The Young and the Restless is down 5% among women 18-49 and 3% among women 25-54, while The Bold and The Beautiful is down only 2% among women 18-49 and is actually up 4% among women 25-54.

The Bold and The Beautiful will celebrate its 28th anniversary on March 23 and in January celebrated its 7,000th episode since joining the CBS daytime lineup in 1987.

Billie Gold, director of TV programming research at Carat, says while soap opera viewership continues to dwindle with the audience aging up, the remaining four soaps cumulatively have survived the major viewer fallout over the past decade.

“Pretty much the viewers left are those who are loyal to their respective soaps,” Gold says, adding that with the exception of Days, the audiences have bottomed out and become more stable, although not drawing many new younger viewers.

And while the categories of advertisers on the soaps is not very diverse, Gold says it’s still the place to be for packaged goods advertisers. “To a company like Procter & Gamble, the soap opera viewers are its core target consumer. Soap opera viewers buy a lot of packaged goods products. To P&G and other packaged goods companies, the soap operas can be more important than primetime TV.”

In the daytime battle of the afternoon entertainment shows, ABC’s The Chew continues to hold a slim viewer lead over CBS’ The Talk, but both have seen their viewership decline this season by about 4%.

The Chew is averaging 2.74 million viewers, compared to 2.85 million last season at this point, while TheTalk is averaging 2.69 million viewers, compared to 2.8 million viewers last season.

The Chew has taken a major hit among women 18-49, with its viewership in the demo declining by 18% to 447,000. The Talk’s women 18-49 viewership is down 4% to 430,000. Among women 25-54, The Chew is down 15% to 598,000 viewers, while The Talk is down 17% to 549,000 viewers. Both The Chew and The Talk have seen their median age audiences increase by two years this season compared to last, with The Chew’s median age now at 62 and The Talk at 63.

The View, which lost Rosie O’Donnell as one of its hosts for the second time in seven years, has fallen under 3 million viewers, averaging 2.9 million this season, compared to 3.04 million during the same period last season, a decline of 5%.

But much like the afternoon talk shows, the late morning View is taking double-digit loses among women 18-49 and 25-54. The View this season is averaging 472,000 women 18-49, down 12%, and 639,000 women 25-54, down 10%.

Carat’s Gold says the infighting on the air among the cohosts, particularly that between O’Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg, did not do the show any favors. “The View’s problems began when Joy Behar left and then Barbara Walters,” Gold says. “And many viewers just got turned off by all the public bickering. Some of that also happened on The Talk. People want to tune into these shows to watch the hosts interact as friends. They want to see a happy environment, not a lot of arguing and the hosts insulting one another.”

The most stable of the broadcast network daytime programming are the two CBS game shows—Let’sMake a Deal and The Price is Right. Viewership for both is almost identical to last season and they are drawing sizable audiences.

Let’s Make a Deal is averaging 3.04 million viewers at 10 a.m. and 3.53 million viewers at 10:30 a.m., compared to 3.05 million viewers at 10 a.m. and 3.54 million viewers at 10:30 last season. The Price is Right is averaging 4.85 million viewers at 11 a.m. and 5.63 million at 11:30 a.m., compared to 4.86 million at 11 and 5.86 million at 11:30 a.m. last season.

The games shows do draw older audiences. Let’s Make a Deal has a median age audience of 63, while The Price Is Right’s median age audience is 65-plus.