Disney to pull the plug on SOAPnet in 2012, will target pre-schoolers with the new channel, Disney Jr.
Soap Operas Take Another Hit
If you’re a soap fan, chances are you’ve heard by now via Twitter, your favorite soap blogs, or your favorite message boards that SOAPnet has been canceled. It’s another hard hit to a beloved genre that struggles to maintain its fanbase on a weekly basis. Ratings constantly fluctuate and the overall appeal of soaps is nothing like it used to be. The genre has already lost Another World and Guiding Light. As The World Turns will join them when it goes off air this fall. And now Disney has opted to take things a step further and cancel an entire network that’s supposed to be devoted to soaps.
Beginning in January 2012, SOAPnet will become Disney Jr., a channel focused on television programming for ages 2-7. That’s right folks, we’re losing our network to a bunch of diaper clad babies and booger picking kids, who really shouldn’t be spending that much time in front of the television anyway. Not to mention that they already have networks like PBS, Disney, Nickelodeon, and the surplus of shows on demand and various networks that rerun cartoons and education programming all day long. Do they really have to take SOAPnet as well?
Anne Sweeney, former President of ABC Daytime and current Co-Chairwoman of Disney Media Networks told the NYTimes, "This represents the next step in a global preschool strategy that started 10 years ago with the introduction of dedicated channels overseas." Sweeney went on to call the decision to replace SOAPnet "a tough one," rationalizing the change as smart business move.
The original premise of SOAPnet made it convenient network for fans who weren’t able to watch their favorite shows during the day, but with the invention of the DVR and the multitude of places to watch shows online, the network is no longer as important as it once was. It’s an argument that means little to soap fans, many of whom believe that the genre simply isn’t as supported by the powers that be as it once was. While the higher ups have their reasons for canceling SOAPnet and can do so without thinking twice, it’s a hard hit for a genre that’s already hanging by a string.
Soap Opera Digest interviewed ABC Daytime President Brian Frons regarding the move to eliminate SOAPnet. When asked if fans should be worried about SOAPnet’s cancelation, Frons reassured fans they have nothing to worry about. "They shouldn’t be worried. Over the years, Disney has made a lot of commitment to the Disney brand. As they looked out in the marketplace, they really felt they needed to be in the preschool space with a full-branded channel. Given the way technology has gone, where you can DVR your soap, watch it on Hulu and abc.com, it was felt that the original purpose of SOAPnet — today’s soaps tonight — could sort of be fulfilled in different ways. Frankly, financially it will be better for us, because if you watch on daytime, we actually make more money than if the same person watches on SOAPnet, just because rates are that different between the network world and the cable world."
SOAPnet wasn’t just about watching today’s shows at night. It was a chance to watch reruns of classic soaps, great for the soap veteran and even better for new viewers catching it the first time around. And for four years, Lisa Rinna and Ty Treadway hosted a beloved talk show, Soap Talk, that connected fans in a more intimate setting to their favorite shows. It featured show discussions and interviews with actors and gave a forum to discuss the state of the genre as a whole. The show was eventually canceled because of the network’s desire to shift the focus away from soaps, which was the start of the very problem that many believe led to this cancellation.
In the last couple of years reruns of classic soaps have been pulled, replaced by reruns of shows like One Tree Hill and Gilmore Girls, clearly in hopes of pulling in younger viewers. The network even took its chance with reality shows about dating, southern women, and an original series called Being Erica. The ratings have declined for soaps as a whole, so it makes sense that its network would lose viewers as well. Instead of focusing on the loyal, veteran soap fans, many of whom have been with this genre for most of their lives, they focused on seeking an entirely different one. No surprised that they failed, right? Or that this failure has led to a cancellation of the only soap network?
While I understand the network’s reasoning, it’s still very disheartening. These days the internet has made access to soap repeats fairly easy, but that doesn’t mean other means of access should be taken away as well. The best part of the soap fandom is how lovingly devoted fans are to their shows. Every show, every couple, and every actor has sites and message boards dedicated to them, fans that clamor to support them in every possible way.
And fans see the importance of SOAPnet:
Via Twitter — @Kinravip #SOAPnet; a trusted friend, always there. Earthquakes, floods, & presidential conferences be damned! I want my soaps! #AMC #OLTL #GH
Via Twitter — @shargem69 #disney made a mistake in canceling #SOAPnet. Could have used channel to show classic episodes of best soap stories #GH #OLTL
How can ABC continually state that they stand behind daytime television while cutting off one of its limbs after several soaps being canceled in the last few years? And how are we supposed to continue to love something when the people behind it clearly don’t love it as much as we do?
Soaps In Depth executive editor Richard Simms offered some some important advice on Twitter. "Folks, doom and gloom talk does nothing but tell people, ‘geez, I shouldn’t bother watching.’ it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy." He later suggested to "Spend more time talking up soaps and getting people excited about what’s good as opposed to bad. Bring people back, don’t turn them away!"
For more on the news, visit NYTimes.com and SoapOperaDigest.com