CBS has pulled the plug on another long-running soap opera.
Just three months after "Guiding Light" aired its final episode, CBS announced Tuesday that it will end "As the World Turns" in September, after 54 years and more than 13,000 episodes. Its cancellation will leave CBS with just two soaps: daytime's most-watched serial, "The Young and the Restless," and "The Bold and the Beautiful."
"World," which launched in 1956 and is the oldest of the remaining broadcast soap operas, had long been rumored to be the genre's next casualty. The show averages 2.5 million total viewers this year (down from 2.6 million in 2008), which is less than half of the audience that tunes in to "The Young and the Restless," which averages just over 5 million.
Lynn Leahey, editorial director of Soap Opera Digest, said the move does not come as a surprise for daytime industry observers. "Still, it's a punch in the gut for fans," she said. "This is a show they've been holding near and dear for decades."
"World" follows the denizens of small town Oakdale, Ill., and has seen such actors as Marisa Tomei, Meg Ryan and James Earl Jones come through town.
CBS declined comment, but in a statement Barbara Bloom, senior vice president of daytime programming, said, "The almanacs will show 'As the World Turns' as a pioneer of the format, a hallmark for quality with its numerous Emmys, the launching pad for many television and film stars and a daytime ratings powerhouse for parts of three decades."
But the bottom line, Leahey said, is " 'As the World Turns' just isn't making money."
Soap operas' viewership has been in a steady decline for decades and in more recent years has plummeted as more women have joined the workforce and the number of cable outlets and entertainment choices has exploded.
Meanwhile, daytime has seen success with talk shows and other less expensive formats, while serials require much larger budgets for their big ensemble casts, producers and writers. Most daytime soaps have issued major pay cuts in recent years; in October, longtime "The Young and the Restless" star Eric Braeden publicly threatened to leave the show after being asked to take yet another cut to what is reportedly a seven-figure salary. (He and "Y&R" producer Sony eventually came to an agreement.)
Also, in a cost-cutting move, ABC is planning to move "All My Children" from New York to California at the end of the year, according to sources at the show. The decision will save an estimated $10 million annually for the company, which both owns and produces the show, according to sources.
Brian Cahill, senior vice president and managing director of TeleNext Media, the subsidiary of Procter & Gamble that produced both "Guiding Light" and "World," told the Associated Press that the company is shopping "World" to other outlets in the hopes of continuing production. TeleNext has tried but has failed to find another home for "Guiding Light."