MBPT Spotlight: As the Data Turns-Daytime Soaps See Q4 Resurgence To the Tune of 10% Growth

Broadcast network programming in daytime showed a tremendous resurgence in fourth quarter that was sure to please any marketers and their media agencies who bought ad time in the daypart during this season’s upfront.

Among the big winners were the remaining entries of a beloved bygone era: The four daytime soap operas. All told, General Hospital on ABC, The Bold and The Beautiful and The Young and the Restless on CBS and Day of Our Lives on NBC cumulatively grew their overall viewership by 10%, and all 10 daytime shows increased their live-plus-same-day audience by 17%, according to Nielsen data.

Capitalizing on the good news, CBS on Wednesday announced that it has renewed its entire daytime lineup for the 2014-15 season. In fourth quarter, the two CBS soaps, along with its afternoon talk show, The Talk, and its two morning game shows Let’s Make a Deal and The Price is Right, cumulatively were up 14% in viewers, 11% among women 18-49 and 8% in women 25-54.

CBS, in fact, gave The Young and The Restless, the most-watched daytime soap, a multi-year pickup through the 2016-17 season. The Young and The Restless grew its viewership 10% in fourth quarter to 4.8 million from 4.4. The Bold and The Beautiful increased its viewership in fourth quarter by 13% to 3.7 million.

ABC’s General Hospital grew its viewership by more than 7% to 2.9 million, while NBC’s Days of Our Lives increased its viewership by about 8% to 2.6 million viewers.

Angelica McDaniel, senior VP, CBS Daytime, believes the cancellations of most of the soaps on the three networks has contributed to the increase in viewership of the remaining ones.

“Each one of the remaining daytime dramas has benefited from the cancellations because there are still a lot of fans of the genre out there and now they have less options,” McDaniel says. “Maybe when their favorites were canceled it gave them an opportunity to sample the remaining ones and they have become viewers of some of those.”

She says the networks have all been working to get the soaps a fair share of social media coverage. The Bold and The Beautiful, in particular, was among the top trending topics on several days each week during the fourth quarter.

McDaniel says in addition to its shooting in Los Angeles, The Bold and The Beautiful also traveled to Lake Tahoe and to Italy for some filmed episodes, which she said this is unusual for a daytime drama. Torsten Kaye, who previously starred in ABC’s All My Children before it was canceled, joined the cast of The Bold and The Beautiful in fourth quarter, and McDaniel says that could have brought in some new viewers who are fans.

‘Chew’ Before ‘Talk’?
The closest daytime battle is between CBS’ The Talk and ABC’s food-oriented The Chew. The Talk airs each day at 2 p.m., while The Chew airs at 1 p.m., so they are not competing head-to-head, but the margin of difference in total viewers in fourth quarter was very small, putting the series in a virtual dead heat, averaging 2.73 million viewers each. The Chew grew its viewership in fourth quarter by 15%, while The Talk increased its audience by 20%.

Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media, said with both shows in their first few years on the air, viewers are still finding them and will probably stick with the show they like. And both being in different time periods lessens the need for real choice.

McDaniel says The Talk is continuing to try to broaden its reach. Every December the show travels from Los Angeles to New York to do a week’s worth of shows in the Big Apple, which brings lots of extra media exposure and, in turn, a larger TV audience.

She says this past fourth quarter, The Talk also held a Love Boat reunion show, bringing on the cast members from the popular 1970s and '80s ABC series. “That proved to be very popular among our viewers,” she says.

Games Still Score
Perhaps as much a surprise in daytime as the growth by the soap operas was the double-digit increases in the CBS game shows.

The 10 a.m. Let’s Make A Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady, grew its viewership by 16% in the fourth quarter to 2.9 million, while the 10:30 edition jumped by 17% to 3.4 million. At 11 a.m., The Price is Right, hosted by Drew Carey, increased viewership by 14% to 4.8 million, while the 11:30 a.m. episode increased by 10% to 5.6 million. The Price is Right viewership is higher than several broadcast networks’ primetime series viewership.

McDaniel says CBS tries to bring a synergy throughout all of its daytime shows and also does some stunting when it can. In fourth quarter, The Price Is Right celebrated the 90th birthday of the legendary Bob Barker, who hosted the show for 35 years before retiring in 2007. The show also held a pet adoption week that generated a lot of viewer interest, McDaniel says. Another stunt was to give away luxury cars as prizes during one week in fourth quarter, with one contestant winning a Bentley.

The synergy will continue in January when stars from the two CBS soap operas, along with The Talk cohosts Aisha Tyler and Julie Chen appear as guest models on Let’s Make A Deal, with Wayne Brady cohosting The Talk.

The fourth hour of NBC’s Today show, which is cohosted by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, and airs at 10 a.m. also grew its viewership in the fourth quarter by 10% to 2.3 million viewers.

The only daytime series to show viewer declines in fourth quarter was the ABC 11 a.m. talk show, The View, which had a 10% drop in viewership to 2.9 million.

Some of that 300,000 viewer-per-day decline could be attributed to the departure of longtime cohosts Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. The current host team includes Barbara Walters, Sherri Shepherd, Whoopi Goldberg and the most recent addition, Jenny McCarthy, who was somewhat of a controversial selection.

The View did get off to a solid start in the second quarter, however, drawing 3.5 million viewers for the week of January 6, its most-watched week since the week of Jan. 28, 2013. The show did return then from two weeks of repeat episodes, so it remains to be seen if the show can sustain that boost in viewership.

Horizon’s Adgate says The View, much like The Talk and The Chew are personality-driven shows and the chemistry of the hosts is very important. “If the viewers don’t feel comfortable with the hosts, they are not going to feel comfortable watching,” he says.

Billie Gold, VP, director of buying/programming research at Carat, says The View has been “on the downswing for several years and will continue in that direction unless the show adds a new cohost that is enormously popular and can draw viewers in each day. If they can find that person the show might be able to stop the decline.”

Soaps Clean Up
The soaps continued their success during the first two weeks in January. ABC’s General Hospital also scored a big viewer number on Jan. 7 when it pulled in 3.55 million viewers, its most-watched telecast in over six years. NBC’s Days of Our Lives averaged more than 3 million viewers during the first two weeks of 2014 and also attracted its largest female 18-49 audience since Nov. 2011.

Not to be outdone, CBS’ The Young and The Restless delivered 5.3 million viewers during the first week of January, its largest weekly audience since the first week of Feb. 2011. Meanwhile, The Bold and The Beautiful averaged 4.1 million views, its largest weekly audience since the last week in Feb. 2008.

Clearly, it’s been a while since the broadcast networks could crow about their soap operas like this.