R.I.P., Soapnet: The Death of the Network Where Every Soap Went to Die

Looks like stay-at-homes don’t need the diversion of soap operas anymore. Not even old ones on cable. Cuz, you know, the interwebs. (Bless ’em.) Here’s the skinny:

soapnet-is-deadby Molly Lambert

Soap operas have been one of television’s hardiest genres since the medium’s inception, adding a visual component to what was already an extremely successful category of radio show. Dependent upon endless cliffhangers and narrative tension drawn out at a snail’s pace, soaps are like a shrub that always thrives no matter what the TV climate trends forecast. So it’s sad to hear about the end of cable network Soapnet, which has been broadcasting soap opera reruns since the year 2000. With a lineup combining nighttime airings of current daytime soaps and reruns of canceled shows, Soapnet filled a niche that ultimately might have proved to be too niche. In recent years the daytime soap opera genre in general began an unprecedentedly steep decline, spurred on by the rise of on demand viewing.

Daytime TV soaps have always relied on the assumption that housewives will want something to watch while they do their daily chores, but there was no accounting for the sudden rise of cable or of sites like Netflix and Hulu that allow viewers to ingest media at their own leisure. Nor was there the expectation that women would fill the workforce, particularly during recession years, and not be at home when their stories came on. Between 2009 and 2012, four long-running soaps hit the slaughterhouse floor: As the World TurnsAll My ChildrenOne Life to Live, and Guiding Light. All of these shows had run for decades, with the longest spanning over 50 years. Soapnet, which is owned by Disney (which also owns Grantland), is being shelved in favor of a network for preschoolers, but it might turn out that even preschoolers know how to look up their favorite shows on an iPad. Soon programs airing at exact daily times will be extinct.

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