MBPT Spotlight: Daytime Soaps Skew Old But So Do the Network Shows That Replaced Them

The daytime soap opera audience on the broadcast networks is old. Everyone pretty much acknowledges this, but when you look at the Nielsen ratings by age demo group, the numbers really hit home. All of which explains why the networks have been slowly canceling their daytime soaps over the past few years: They can’t charge advertisers that much for 55-plus or 65-plus audiences, and those demos are the predominant ones of the soaps.

Of the four remaining daytime dramas on the broadcast networks, The Young and the Restless on CBS skewed oldest this past season with a median age audience of 61. The Bold and the Beautiful on CBS was next with a median age audience of 60, followed by NBC’s Days of Our Lives (59) and ABC’s General Hospital (57).

Those four soaps this past season cumulatively drew an average of 14.1 million viewers per day. Of that total, 8.5 million viewers were 55-plus and 5.4 million were 65-plus.

And yet, when you look at what’s been replacing the soaps the past few years, it doesn’t look like the networks are getting any younger. ABC’s The Chew and CBS’ The Talk this past season cumulatively drew 5.5 million viewers per day, but 3.4 million were 55-plus and 2.3 million were 65-plus.

The Young and the Restless was the most watched daytime soap, averaging 4.9 million each day, of which 3.6 million were female. But of that 4.9 million total, 3.1 million were 55-plus and 2 million were 65-plus. But The Young and the Restless also has the highest composition of “younger” viewers. In the 18-49 demo, 1.1 million watched every day, while among viewers 25-54, 1.5 million watched daily.

The next most watched soap, The Bold and the Beautiful, averaged 3.7 million viewers per day with 2.7 million females. It was watched by 2.3 million viewers 55-plus and 1.5 million viewers 65-plus. But it drew fewer younger viewers. In the 18-49 demo, it averaged only 869,000 viewers daily, while in the 25-54 demo, it averaged 1.2 million.

General Hospital and Days of Our Lives both averaged fewer 55-plus and 65-plus viewers than the two CBS soaps, but they also averaged fewer viewers in the younger demos.

Overall, General Hospital averaged 2.9 million viewers per day, with 2.3 million of those being women. Days averaged 2.6 million viewers per day with 1.9 million of those being female.

General Hospital averaged 1.6 million viewers 55-plus but just 882,000 viewers 65-plus, and averaged 868,000 viewers 18-49 and 1.1 million viewers 25-54. Days averaged 1.5 million viewers 55-plus but only 979,000 viewers 65-plus. It also averaged just 780,000 viewers 18-49 and 941,000 viewers 25-54.

Try and Try Again

It’s not as if the networks haven’t tried to skew younger. They’ve replace the daytime soaps with live entertainment shows such as The Talk and The Chew, but those shows not only skew as old as the soaps but draw fewer younger viewers as well.

The Talk this past season had a median age audience of 62, which is older than any of the remaining soaps. The Chew had a median age of 60, which would tie it for second oldest audience among the soaps.

Both The Talk and The Chew had fewer viewers 18-49 and 25-54 than all of the soaps, except The Chew averaged about 8,000 more 25-54 viewers daily than Days.

The Chew averaged 2.8 million viewers with 2.1 million of those being women. It averaged 723,000 viewers 18-49, 949,000 viewers 25-54, 1.7 million viewers 55-plus and 1.1 million viewers 65-plus.

The Talk averaged 2.7 million viewers with 2.1 million women. It averaged 584,000 viewers 18-49, 858,000 viewers 25-54, 1.7 million viewers 55-plus and 1.2 million viewers 65-plus.

The Talk and The Chew may be more interesting to some marketers who can do integrations and sponsored segments on the shows, but in reality, the audiences they are reaching are mostly as old as those watching the remaining soaps.

Meanwhile, the future of those daytime dramas can’t be that promising, when one considers that no television network wanted to carry this year’s Daytime Emmys telecast. The broadcast networks signed off on the awards after 2011 and cable’s HLN, which televised the Daytime Emmys in 2012 and 2013, also passed this year. So this year’s awards presentation, to be held on Sunday night, June 22, will be streamed online only. Kathy Griffin will host the awards live from the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The telecasts on HLN the past two years drew sparse viewership, averaging only about 912,000 viewers in each showing. CBS was the last broadcast network to televise the Daytime Emmys, in 2011. That telecast drew 5.5 million viewers but only a 0.8 18-49 demo rating, indicating that the audience that did watch was, well, an older one.

Prior to that, the broadcast networks alternated televising the Daytime Emmys each year. However, the viewership of the awards began to dwindle as the networks started canceling the soaps. In 1993, when there were 11 broadcast network daytime soap operas on, the Daytime Emmy Awards telecast on ABC drew 21.9 million viewers. By 2006, viewership of the awards was down to 6 million and in 2009 with none of the big broadcast networks wanting to carry the telecast, it ran on The CW network and averaged 2.7 million viewers.

This year, CBS tops the bill with 61 Daytime Emmy nominations. The Young and the Restless has 26 nominations while The Bold and the Beautiful has 19. Syndicated daytime programming has 50 nominations.

While CBS would not agree to televise the Daytime Emmys, its daytime series The Talk will “celebrate” the 41st annual awards on Monday, June 23, the day after the awards are presented. It will be the third year that The Talk is hosting its Daytime Emmy “after-party.” While the show will bring on winners from all the networks, CBS is clearly hoping that its soaps win big in the major acting categories so it can give them a plug and some additional exposure among the daytime audience. Since the winners won’t be known until the night before, the guest list will be announced early on the morning of June 23.