In an era where network viewership is falling and the daytime landscape is down to just four soaps, here's an unusual headline that you might not be expecting to see -- soap opera ratings are higher than the ratings the three broadcast networks are seeing for their news coverage of Donald Trump's impeachment trial. That's right: by not airing The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of our Lives, General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless, ABC, CBS, and NBC are actually losing viewers.
Of course, there is also the very real -- and very scary -- possibility that the constant preemptions will result in viewers not tuning in to the soaps when they finally do resume their regular broadcasting schedule. After all, many experts blame the decline of soaps on one of television's lengthiest preemptions: the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Simply put, viewers look for other things to do when their soaps are not on the air.
How bad are the ratings for the impeachment coverage?
CBS racked up about 1.5 million viewers last Wednesday, the first day of the trial. By comparison, The Young and the Restless has been averaging 3.7 million viewers per day so far this season. With 3.1 million viewers, The Bold and the Beautiful lures twice as many viewers as CBS has captured with its news coverage. For the first two days of Senate proceedings, CBS bumped both Y&R and B&B. By week's end, CBS aired the first 30 minutes of Y&R on the East Coast until news coverage began. Thursday and Friday's Y&R episodes were posted to CBS's web site. The Bold and the Beautiful was only shown last Monday.
Meanwhile, just shy of 2.0 million viewers catch Days of our Lives. NBC's trial coverage has averaged about 1.26 million viewers. Days of our Lives is one of NBC's most-watched programs on its website. That may provide at least a partial reason for the network's decision not to skip over any broadcast days. NBC continued with DAYS normal schedule by airing online, even if an episode was preempted nationally.
Things aren't any better at ABC. ABC averaged a tad under 1.3 million viewers to General Hospital's 2.15. ABC has preempted General Hospital every day since January 21 -- for a total of five missed broadcast days to date. Unlike CBS and NBC, ABC has not posted any episodes of GH on its web site since last week.
The question many fans have been asking is why. Unlike the days of the O.J. Simpson trial, nearly everyone has access to the Internet. While not every soap viewer might want to watch their soaps online or on-demand, many do. The viewers that don't keep up to date online might be resentful when broadcasting goes back to normal and they learn that they've missed episodes. But those fans that would watch online can't if episodes aren't being posted. In any scenario, there are unhappy viewers.
Ratings are a tricky business -- even trickier than they have been in the past. If a large portion of the nation cannot view an episode during its daytime airing, a show's ratings could be astronomically lower than on a typical broadcast day. It is possible for a network to not have to count those partially preempted days in its overall ratings average, but just the appearance of a day of dismal viewership in a show's ratings can be... well, not good. However, several networks have started using new systems to tabulate ratings. Gone are the days when a show's ratings referred only to its "live" broadcast. For its primetime lineup, ABC is looking at total ratings over a 30-day period. So, a primetime show that aired on the first of the month will see its ratings account for not just that single broadcast, but anytime that show was viewed over the following 30 days. The change was made to account for the way that viewers are now watching television. Binge-watching has gone from just a catchy buzz word to a way of life. The change may also allow for shows with low same-day ratings to avoid cancellation.
Will the networks ultimately make the decision to allow cable channels to cover news events? Will the networks bow to fans' pressure and post episodes online? You'll just have to tune in tomorrow... or whenever things go back to normal.
Do you think the networks are making the right decision to preempt their daytime lineups? Why or why not? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.