ABC has canceled two of its longest-running programs, pulling the plug on its flagship soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live.
Launched in July 1968, One Life to Live was one of the longest-running soaps on TV. Set in the same fictional universe as Life, All My Children bowed in January 1970.
The decision to shut down production on the two series is symptomatic of the overall decline in soap opera viewership. Whereas soaps once averaged around 7 million daily viewers in the early ‘90s, last season saw the genre limp along to the tune of around 1 million diehards.
All My Children will go dark in September, while Life will cease to exist in January 2012.
The Chew, a Mario Batali vehicle, will step in for AMC, while a health/lifestyle program tentatively titled The Revolution is slated to replace Life.
“While we are excited about our new shows and the shift in our business, I can't help but recognize how bittersweet the change is,” said Brian Frons, president of Daytime, Disney ABC Television Group. “We are taking this bold step to expand our business because viewers are looking for different types of programming these days.”
ABC said it conducted “extensive research” before making the decision to kill off the soaps, although the writing has been on the wall for the better part of the last two decades. At the start of the 2010-11 TV season, only six soaps remained on broadcast TV, down from nearly two-dozen in the 1970s.
Other recent cancellations include CBS’ Guiding Light and As the World Turns.
Once Life flickers out, ABC will be left with a single remaining soap in General Hospital. NBC remains committed to Days of Our Lives through at least fall 2013, while CBS still airs The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.
So moribund is the format that Walt Disney Co. a year ago announced it will shutter its standalone cable channel, SOAPnet, in 2012.