'General Hospital' leads soap opera revival

Daytime dramas were shunned a few years ago because their costs were climbing as ratings dropped. But the genre appears to be making a comeback.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 29, 2013 10:57AM
Image: Couple on sofa watching television together -- Blend Images, Hill Street Studios, the Agency Collection, Getty ImagesABC shook up daytime dramas in 2011, canceling "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" because their costs were high and their ratings low.

The network, owned by Walt Disney Co. (DIS), took a gamble in keeping "General Hospital," however, and that bet has paid off.

Ratings for the show, which turns 50 in April, are on the rise. "General Hospital" attracted more than 3 million total viewers during the week ended Dec. 28, the highest total in two years. Viewership among advertisers' target demographic -- women 18 to 34 years old -- is up 44% year over year, according to ABC.
Soap fans say the reason for GH's resurgence is simple: The show got a lot better. Under executive producer Frank Valentini, who assumed the job last year, the show has had entertaining story lines and brought back fan favorites from the show's heyday, such as Rick Springfield (Dr. Noah Drake), Kin Shriner (Scotty Baldwin) and Genie Francis (Laura Spencer). 
"There were concerns about the future of the show," Valentini said in an interview with MSN Money. "We are all aware of how the television viewing market has become increasingly fractured."

The concern about soaps has been around for a long time. Ratings for soap operas took such a dramatic nosedive in the last decade that CBS (CBS) research head David Poltrack was sure Nielsen's ratings were wrong. He asked the ratings service to double check its math, but it came up with the same results. That was quite a change for a genre that for decades was a television cash cow.

But soap operas may now be making a limited comeback.

ABC renewed "General Hospital" last year and canceled "The Revolution," a lower-cost alternative to soaps that failed to attract viewers. Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC has recently renewed "Days of Our Lives." According to Deadline.com, CBS is poised to renew "The Bold and the Beautiful," while "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" are due to come back as online shows later this year and will also be available on Hulu.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr

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Jan 30, 2013 1:06PM
I'm going to step out on a limb here, and say that in my opinion, the reason for the increase in viewership for GH is not only the returning characters, but also because of the actors from OLTL who are now part of Port Charles. The dedicated viewers of OLTL were happy to be able to see some of their "friends" show up there to keep the characters alive. 

Jan 30, 2013 8:43AM
Did you do any research at all? Kin Shriner has not been brought back. Genie Francis is back at work on the show but her character has yet to appear in any episodes. Rick Springfield was only in a one or two episodes last year. 

You completely missed ALL of the actors who have been brought back... Robin Mattson (Heather Webber), Finola Hughes (Anna Devane), Ian Buchanan (Duke Lavery), Lynn Herring (Lucy Coe), Sean Kannan (AJ Quartermaine), and Kristina Wagner (Felicia Jones).

Maybe you should have talked to someone who actually watches the show!
Jan 30, 2013 1:42PM
So many errors in this article. SIGH. Where to begin.....
Jan 30, 2013 1:54PM
When I used to watch GH many, many,  years ago I fell in with Scorpio..He was the ultimate hero to me and Robert and Holly and Robert and Anna  were my favorite couples, Love lil Robin too, Luke/Laura and Robert. Wow, those were the good ole days.
Jan 30, 2013 1:20PM
For one I am glad that it'sbeen renewed I didn't like the revolution or the chew! It would be nice if they brought back AMC and OLTL on TV instead of online but it's better than nothing! And I think Kin Shriner came back for one of the funerals Edward I think
Jan 30, 2013 1:14PM
Love watching GH it is sooooo good !!!!!!!!!! Gh is also very interesting & entertaining!
Jan 30, 2013 6:51PM
I've been watching the show for years and I'm not happy with this new plot involving vampires!

Jan 31, 2013 12:13PM
This is WONDERFUL news!  I hope ABC now realizes that there is STILL a huge audience for soaps and how wrong they were for cancelling AMC & OLTL and replacing them with mindless drivel like The Chew and the God awful Revolution that didn't even last a full year!
Jan 31, 2013 8:37AM
Jazlow, according to Soap Opera Central and TV GUIDE.COM,  Kin will be back in February and Genie will appear also in February. Keep in mind, GH shoots their episodes one month in advance. If they taped it in January, it'll air in February. Rick might be back this year.

On the other side, this is good news. GH might have a chance of being renewed for another year or so this spring.

Jan 31, 2013 2:12PM
gh could be in trouble if they start with the dracula foolishness they could really loose their ratings 
Feb 20, 2013 6:21PM
Roger Howarth's character Todd is hysterical.  I absolutely love his droll sense of humor and quick retorts.
Jan 30, 2013 10:50PM
Nice to see a positive article about soaps appearing in a business. GH has greatly improved under the leadership of Frank Valentini and headwriter Ron Carlivati. They lightened up the storytelling by adding some comic elements and shifting the focus off of the mafia kingpins (who had dominated the show for a decade) to the hospital setting again. The name of the show after is is General HOSPITAL. .

But it would also be nice if the reporter had spent 5 minutes doing some research before he posted the story.

Many stars from the show's golden era are set to return including Genie Francis (Laura), Kin Shriner (Scotty) and Jack Wagner (Frisco), but they have yet to appear on screen.

In the meantime, many others have returned in the past year on a contract or recurring basis including Finola Hughes (Anna), Tristan Rogers (Robert Scorpio), Ian Buchanan (Duke Lavery), Lynn Herring (Lucy Coe) and Robin Matson (Heather Weber).

Rick Springfield (Noah Drake) came back for a total of 3 episodes about a year ago.

Jan 31, 2013 4:00AM
I want Jason back. He has been on that show since i started watching it many many moons ago and it isn't the same with out him. Forget Y&R come back to GH :)
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