This one is a stunner. Disney is deep-sixing soap cable channel SoapNet in 2012. It will be replaced with Disney Junior, a channel devoted to programing for pre-school aged children. The ramifications for daytime television are huge. Not only does this remove Disney’s incentive to keep all three of ABC’s soaps on the air to provide programming for the network,it removes a revenue stream for the Sony-produced ‘Days of Our Lives‘ and ‘The Young & The Restless‘ which also air on the network. That hurts their bottom lines. It is unlikely that other cable channels will pick up the shows. Actors and writers for all five soaps will no longer receive residuals for the SoapNet airings, slightly lowering their salaries.
Another person who is negatively impacted by the demise of SoapNET is ABC Daytime president Brian Frons who also been running SoapNet since 2007. He loses one of his key responsibilities. According to Daytime Confidential’s Jamey Giddens, Frons has released a statement. “SOAPnet’s transition to Disney Junior will not alter ABC Daytime’s commitment to all three of our daytime soap operas, ‘General Hospital‘, ‘One Life to Live‘ and ‘All My Children‘.” I hope that is still true six months from now.
According to ABC’s official statement, “SOAPnet was created in 2000 to give daytime viewers the ability to watch time-shifted soaps, before multiplatform viewing and DVRs were part of our vocabulary. But today, as technology and our businesses evolve, it makes more sense to align this distribution with a preschool channel that builds on the core strengths of our company.” In other words, now that viewers can watch soaps on-line, there is less need for SOAPNet. Given the failure of SOAPNet’s original programming to attract an audience, the daytime soap repeats are the channel’s main asset.
When SoapNET began, it sought to offer more than just soap repeats, but offer original programming about soap operas like the talk show Soap Talk and in depth biographies of soap actors. Given the dearth of coverage that mainstream entertainment television shows give to daytime, SoapNET had the potential to fill a unique niche in television and become a true community for daytime fans. Unfortunately, the shows were not well produced and shied away from the journalistic coverage of daytime that can be found on-line. When Frons took over the channel, he attempted to broaden SoapNET’s appeal beyond daytime fans, adding female-centered reality shows, questionably soapy reruns like ‘Gilmore Girls‘, and the Canadian drama ‘Being Erica‘ to the line-up. It did not work. While I hated the change, it had become standard operating procedure for cable channels.
So is this the death knell for the daytime drama? Or is it more like the end of Fox Reality Channel, a cable channel that focused on a thriving genre that simply did not have enough distinctive programming? Only time will tell. I will miss SoapNET in part because its very existence validated daytime as a legitimate television genre like Science Fiction and cartoons. For anyone with internet access, it is now probably more convenient to watch soaps on-line. But there was something nice about kicking back and watching a five hour block of the day’s soaps, complete with incessant Being Erica promos. Soap fans have one more year to enjoy their channel.