Just a short two years ago, General Hospital was staring down the barrel of cancellation as ABC took away its longtime 3 PM slot for the pricey new Katie Couric talk show. Now Katie is facing a demise, set to end its rocky two-season run in May, while General Hospital has been thriving. ABC does not officially renew its soaps, but I have learned that, not surprisingly, General Hospital will continue next season. That follows the announcements by CBS and NBC over the past week that they have renewed The Young And The Restless and The Bold & The Beautiful (CBS) and Days Of Our Lives (NBC). This means that the entire lineup of daytime dramas will remain intact as the genre experiences a resurgence. Consider this: All four soaps are in positive territory year-to-year. Leader The Young & The Restless (5.2 million viewers season to date, 1.5 in Women 18-49) is up 9% in total viewers and 7% in the female demo as it marks its 25th season as the most watched daytime drama. The Bold & The Beautiful (3.9 million, 1.1) is up 14% in viewers and even in W19-49. General Hospital (3.3 million, 1.4) is up 8% and 17%, respectively, as it closes in on Y&R in the demo, and Days Of Our Lives (2.4, 1.1) is up 10% in both categories. Days is delivering its best season in W18-49 in 3 years and biggest season in total viewers in 4 years. General Hospital is pacing for its best season in 7 years in total viewers and is on track to post a 3-year high in W18-49. During the most recent week of available data, the Jan. 7 episode of GH ranked as the series’ most-watched telecast in over 6 years.
The reasons for the resurgence are hard to pin down. Most observers attribute the ratings growth to the fact that, after so many daytime dramas went away, soap fans are migrating to the remaining series. However, the last daytime drama to end its run on broadcast, ABC’s One Life To Live, did so in January 2012. And last year, Prospect Park offered new seasons of both All My Children and One Life To Live, so last fall, there was actually more competition, with 6 daytime dramas, the incumbents plus resurrected AMC and OLTL, than fall 2012, making the year-to-year ratings increases even more impressive. All broadcast soaps are readily available online (Watch ABC for GH, Hulu for Days) or daily on CBS sibling TVGN (Y&Y, B&B), making it easier for fans to keep up with the storylines. The series’ storylines themselves also have been getting positive reaction from fans, possibly helping bring in new viewers. But while the broadcast soaps are basking in ratings glory and celebrating renewals, the prospects for their online brethren, AMC and OLTL, continue to be grim. Both stopped production a while ago as producer Prospect Park has been embroiled in a legal battle with ABC and chances for any of them coming back appear infinitely small.