When more and more women became part of the workforce, many wondered if it would be the demise of soaps. Plenty of cultural critics have written about how fundamental alterations in conceptions of daytime television came along with the changing conceptions of femininity. Of course, the VCR, the DVR, and a variety of other time-shifting devices has been the answer, and I think that the drop in soap opera popularity over the year is due to a variety of factors. While the change in the number of viewers at home may account for some of it, so does a great proliferation of viewing alternatives for cable and satellite users, as well as a variety of what I would consider ultimately faulty logic in how shows are written and marketed, as I wrote about last week.
One answer to the problem of viewers not being home when soaps air has been SoapNet, the cable network which re-airs a variety of soaps that have aired that day again at night, and in programming blocs on the weekend, to provide another form of time shifting for viewers who are not home during the day. Another has been podcasting, which has worked for The Procter & Gamble soaps, as well as All My Children.
Now, the NBC soap Passions has announced that it will begin streaming its episodes online. Each episode will be made available in the afternoon after it has aired on the network on NBC's site, as part of an ongoing effort to expand cross-platform content of NBC shows on NBC's site. The content is available free. Linda Marshall-Smith compares this to the previous online effort to distribute soaps, SoapCity.
Passions is an innovative soap when it comes to cross-platform, as it was also the first daytime drama to become available on iTunes. Because the show is the lowest-rated daytime show but pulls good numbers from teenage girls, its efforts at time shifting and its propensity for using new platform models makes sense, since younger viewers are perceived at being more savvy to Web-based and iPod content.
These types of new distribution models may help address questions that popped up last year (and do every year it seems) about the future and survival of the soap opera genre, as I wrote about last November.