Soap On A Rope
SINK OR SWIM
Soaps are dying. Just look at the ratings! You can read here, here, and here all about them. According to conventional wisdom (which we all know is infallible), soap ratings are so ridiculously low that it's a wonder our television sets don't explode with laughter when we tune in, especially to GL and its pitiful recent 1.4. GL and all the rest are doomed! Except there is an obvious question to ask: if soap ratings are so wretched, why are the eight shows we have left still airing at all?
Part of the answer must be credited to Sarah Bibel, one of the best soap bloggers around, who posted a little noticed but eye popping observation about soap ratings in her Nov. 7 posting:
Maybe viewers aren’t abandoning soaps. They’re just changing the way that they watch them. I got my hands on some Live +7 ratings for the first four weeks of the TV season. These are ratings that include DVR users who watched episodes within a week of the broadcast airing. The upshot? Almost every soap’s W18-49 ratings increase by double digits in the key Women 18-49 demographic. The most DVRd soap is the young-skewing Days of Our Lives which rises a whopping 27%. The second most “improved” show is The Young & The Restless which grows by 25%. Overall, soaps ratings are 19% higher when DVR viewing is included. To put this in perspective, this more than compensates for Y&R STD-16% drop in W18-49 and makes DOOL, the only soap to maintain last year’s W18-49 average, numbers far more impressive. Interestingly,General Hospital (+22%) and All My Children (+20%) are heavily DVRd, while One Life To Live (+10%) only outperforms Guiding Light (+9%).
What is most important about these numbers isn't the numbers themselves; It is the fact that television executives and advertisers are watching these numbers in ways that we fans don't usually consider. We have a tendency to focus solely on the weekly daytime ratings as if it was still 1982 or 1997. In the time shifted universe of television ratings, off-broadcast viewing is almost as important as watching a show in the afternoon in its regular time slot. Perhaps we should rethink the entire notion of "daytime soaps," since a good portion of the audience isn't watching during the day at all. (continued)