EXCLUSIVE: Soap fans can rejoice — I’ve learned that ABC will keep its only remaining daytime drama General Hospital on the air while canceling freshman talk show The Revolution. The news ends months of speculation about what will happen to the venerable soap whose long-time 3 PM slot will be taken over by Katie Couric’s new syndicated talk show in the fall. With Katie joining ABC’s daytime lineup, General Hospital and new lifestyle series The Chew and The Revolution, which replaced canceled soaps All My Children and One Life To Live, have been competing for two slots, with Disney-ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney stating early on that the two stronger performers will make the cut. Revolution, which currently occupies the 2 PM time period that will lead to Katie in most markets, never found its legs ratings-wise and will end its run at the beginning of July. For the following nine weeks, starting on July 9 until Katie premieres on Sept. 10, ABC will air a special Good Morning America-branded hourlong show alongside GH and The Chew. Details about new new program, tentatively titled GMA In The Afternoon, are still being finalized, but it is expected to be generally broader and lighter than the regular GMA unless there is a breaking story, which the afternoon show will jump on. The expansion of the GMA franchise comes as the morning program has been on a ratings roll, dramatically narrowing the gap with long-time ratings leader Today. GMA In The Afternoon is expected to feature some personalities from the morning show, with Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer among those talked about, and will also likely be used as a platform to break new talent. The reshuffling of ABC’s daytime deck, including the decision to stick with GH, represents the first major move by EVP Vicki Dummer, who took over ABC Daytime following the December departure of Brian Frons, the man responsible for the cancellations of AMC and OLTL.
With The Revolution hitting a string of lows over the last few weeks and drawing a little more than half of the audience of GH and The Chew, it is understandable why ABC opted to keep GH, which is down year-to-year but still higher-rated than both The Chew and The Revolution, instead of angering fans by killing another beloved soap for a show that hasn’t proven itself. The renewal comes on the heels of GH drawing 2.26 million viewers for the week of March 26, a up a tenth from the previous week. The Chew (2.21 million) was up 8%, while The Revolution (1.33 million) remained low, in line with its series-low viewership for the previous two weeks (1.33 million, 1.32 million). What’s more, while The Chew‘s ratings have been largely on par with those of the soap it replaced, AMC, at a fraction of the production cost, The Revolution (average of 1.5 million viewers to date, 337,000 of them in the women 18-49 demographic) is down 44% in total viewers and 51% in W18-49 from OLTL‘s deliveries. Among the the three, GH is the highest rated in women 18-49 by a wide margin (most recently a 0.9/6 for the week of March 26 vs. 0.6/4 The Chew and 0.4/3 for The Revolution), so, while I hear ABC is not ready to lock in its daytime schedule for next season yet, it would make sense to keep The Chew at 1 PM and put GH at 2 PM as a lead-in for Katie on the ABC stations, the core station group that will carry Couric’s new syndicated talker.
The renewal ensures that GH, which marked 49 years on the air on April 1, will celebrate its 50th anniversary next April. It is the longest-running U.S. soap opera currently in production. Created by husband-and-wife soap writers Frank and Doris Hursley, GH also holds the record for most Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series: 10.