Report: P&G Washing Hands of TV Biz

Posted Friday, June 22, 2001 9:55:00 AM
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Procter & Gamble, considered the pioneer of the television-based soap opera, is reportedly looking to get out of the soap opera business.

According to published reports and information obtained by Soap Central, P&G is planning to sell its television production division to Viacom, a media giant whose holdings include CBS and MTV.

At a time when radio ruled the day, the move by Procter & Gamble to television-based soaps was considered a risky move. Television was a new medium and relatively untested for sales and marketing purposes - much the way the Internet is today. However, P&G saw television as a new way to reach its target audience, women with an interest in purchasing some of its many household products, hence the derivation of the term "soap opera." P&G's first foray into TV soaps came on December 4th, 1950 with the broadcast of The First Hundred Years. The soap was also the first soap opera to appear on CBS. P&G next debuted The Guiding Light on television on June 30th, 1952. The program had been airing on radio for over 15 years. Among its other well-known soaps are Another World and The Edge of Night, both of which are no longer in production.

There are two interesting ramifications of a possible sale of P&G's production division. First, it would bring to an end a very long presence - 51 years -- by P&G in producing television programs. Secondly, if Viacom were to purchase the production company from P&G, it would mean - indirectly - that CBS would own two of its soaps, As The World Turns and Guiding Light. By owning the soaps outright, CBS would not need to pay costly licensing fees to P&G in order to air the two soaps. Bell-Phillip Televison Productions, Inc. owns The Bold and the Beautiful and Columbia Pictures Television/Columbia TriStar owns The Young and the Restless.

P&G's purported lack of interest in its soaps has been the topic of Internet discussion for several years. Every few months a new post about P&G's supposed desire to cancel Guiding Light makes the rounds. The show's declining ratings and sagging advertising revenue have provided fodder for the cancellation rumors. The rumors have led to organized boycotts of P&G products, which include everything from Tide laundry detergent to Folgers coffee to Pepto-Bismol. Some analysts are already questioning if soap fans could boycott the company if it decides to abandon or sell off its production division.

Though the rumors persist, Viacom and P&G both deny the reports.

Officially, a P&G spokesperson adamantly denies the reports that its production division is up for grabs. "The rumor that [Procter & Gamble] is selling P&G Productions to Viacom is sheer speculation."

When contacted by Soap Central, a Viacom spokesperson explained that the company does not comment on rumors.

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