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SOAPnet Leaves Some Ardent Fans Feeling Betrayed, Questioning the Brand Identity of the Network

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This post was originally published on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog on April 9, 2007.

There are still several angry viewers out there, and the new approach by TV network SOAPnet leaves many questioning whether the company was in it to be the Long Tail platform it had originally claimed.

The cable channel, which has been built around airing several daytime soap operas in the evening after they air on their main networks during the day, has supplemented that material with content from the archives of popular cancelled soaps like Another World and Ryan's Hope...that is until a new daytime lineup came along and bumped off a lot of the soaps.

Now, instead of Another World, the channel will feature One Tree Hill, The O.C., reruns of ABC Family's Falcon Beach, and is featuring regular airings of Dallas as well--four hours a day, in fact. The network will also be launching General Hospital: Night Shift later this year, as I wrote about last month.

Ryan's Hope has been moved from its daily airing to Sunday morning and will now air from 6 a.m. until 7 a.m. Further, the short-lived Port Charles has been moved to 6 a.m. on Saturday only. Considering that, as Daniel R. Coleridge with TV Guide notes, the Another World reruns were averaging a 0.0 in the Nielsen's among the target 18-49 female demographic, that's not a good sign. Of course, it's also probably a sign that the Nielsen's don't help much when trying to measure Long Tail targeted material of the type that SOAPnet is pushing, but that's another story.

The question raised by the fans of these classic soaps is what the point of SOAPnet was, if it's going to now feature significant content from primetime shows that these fans argue aren't really even soap operas and that primetime dramas like The O.C. and 90210 and Dallas don't fit into the brand identity of a soap opera cable network.

Of course, considering the traditional system of cable advertising sales and the centrality of the Nielsen ratings, one can hardly argue with the changes SOAPnet is making, but it nevertheless angers a lot of real and dedicated soap opera fans, for instance the 1,327 signatures on an Another World petition that has been circulating. There are currently 577 signatures on a Ryan's Hope petition circling as well.

Fan boards have been alive with plans for write-ins, further petitions, and voice mails to the powers that be at SOAPnet to voice their displeasure.

For instance, fan Luray on the Soap Central board writes:

Frons is all about attracting young, hip viewers. What he doesn't realize is:

a) People in his adored demographic of 18-34 are watching this show, too.

b) I have more money to spend on advertisers' products than a 25-year-old

c) I'm 48 years old and I'm pretty damn hip!

An often-viewed post over on Snark Weighs In says:

The Soapnet audience is small. And as long as it revolves around current daytime soaps, third-rate original programming, and endless reruns of 90's/early 2000's fare, I don't see it growing much further. Now, it appears Soapnet is willing to fritter away the most loyal viewers they have, in what is, at best, a weak bid at picking up a few thousand younger viewers. That's at best. Because even going by that reasoning, I want to know how a schedule aimed at grabbing younger demos includes four hours a day of Dallas.

Many fans said they specifically purchased digital cable and asked their local carrier to pick up SOAPnet so they could see this content and that they felt cheated after the amount of work they put into getting SOAPnet launched in so many markets, that they were used as the proselytizers on the ground level only to be dumped when the channel go the national penetration it was looking for.

The question here is still a balance between impressions, in which these shows were not doing well, and the dedication the viewers have to the show. The cancellation is not just about losing programming but a feeling from loyal SOAPnet fans, the most dedicated core of the fan base, that they are not being respected.

See my previous posts about these issues in relation to soaps here and here.

In the meantime, Another World will continue to be featured on PGP Classic Soaps through AOL Video.

Thanks to Therese Moss' e-mail to CMS which helped prod me to finally writing about this, since I had been meaning to for some time.

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