How to Save Soap Operas: One Vampire,Werewolf and Zombie at a Time

I have a dirty secret to tell.  I am a soap opera fan. I know right? Who would actually admit that to anyone let alone the whole internet?  There is a massive amount of fans that live for soaps on the internet. I should know.  I tweet with them every weekday at 12:30 pm.  Yes, I am unemployed and have too much time on my hands…why do you ask?

Anyway, soap operas have a very loyal fan base.  That fan base, however, has been getting smaller and smaller because new generations don’t seem to have the time or practice to sit through an hour-long daily drama of people’s lives.  In fact, this has been proven by an article on the Entertainment Weekly website.

What’s most remarkable (or depressing, depending on your point of view) is how the soap audience continues to age. GH remains the youngest-skewing sudser in daytime, but its average age is still 51.3. Last year, it was 50.3. Days is 52.9, down from last year’s 53.6. OLTL is 54.3, up from last year’s 53.4. Y&R is 57.9, up from last year’s 56.9. And AMC is 56.7, up from last year’s 55.5. Bold is 58.7, up slightly from last year’s 58.4. (In comparison, the nets are a lot younger in primetime: NBC is 49.6, CBS is 55.1 and ABC is 51.5). (Rice)

Those are sad facts to face.  The older the average soap audience gets, the more likely the soap opera, as we know it, will cease to exist. This has already started to happen with the
cancellations of As the World Turns, Guiding Light, All My Children and One Life to Live.

This got me wondering.  What could possibly save the daytime industry?  There are a few answers that come to mind.  Better advertising, better writing, better actors; the list goes on.  I honestly believe it all lies in what is being shown on screen and how what is being shown on screen relates to a younger audience.  Don’t get me wrong now; I believe what is being shown now is great. It’s just not reaching a younger generation which might just be the saving grace of this industry.

This brings me to the famous supernatural soap, Dark Shadows.  How did I get there you ask? Well, it’s simple; vampires, werewolves and love triangles with young, relatable women and
men.  I think bringing back Dark Shadows could be the answer to bringing back the young to soap operas.

Dark Shadows, to put it as plainly as possible, was about the wealthy Collins family of Collinsport, Maine and their experiences being tormented by strange occurrences.  Very paired down
summary for a show that lasted 6 years and introduced such characters as Barnabas Collins (Vampire), Victoria Winters, Maggie Evans and most importantly Angelique Bouchard (witch); just to name a few.  The show was considered a cult classic and has a very loyal fanbase that is very protective of the soaps history and its future.

Before I start my explanation; yes I have seen the soap. Yes, I know the powers that be tried to bring it back in ’91 (it was well done, but it had such bad timing). Yes, I know they are making it into a motion picture with Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins (I’m not going into how I feel about that…that is for another blog entry). Yes, I know that my idea is crazy. Just hear me out.

It isn’t hard to notice that almost everywhere around the internet, television, books, movies and even radio there seems to be a love affair with anything and everything supernatural.  For
example, “The Vampire Diaries” television show and books, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Teen Wolf and of course the infamous Twilight books and movies. If you look at who is actually watching and reading these types of bizarre wonders, it is the tween and teenage girl.  I’m sure you see where this is going.  It is pretty obvious, but I bet you wondering how they would save soaps in general. Even if you haven’t asked that I am going to tell you. Bringing back Dark Shadows will bring in the young girls who will open them up to other soaps.  I know you are laughing right now and getting ready to leave but there is always a gateway drug, and Dark Shadows will have to be it for the tween to teen girl.

Now I am going to fully explain this idea using the 4 P’s (Product, Promotion, Place and Price).  I would do a full marketing plan, but I don’t want to bore you, and I really should be either getting paid to do so or getting a grade to do a full plan. Anyway, here it goes.

Product

Dark Shadows would be a daily soap opera that would air at 4 pm on CW; starting its story in June. The story will stay true to the original with the noticeable upgrades in technology and social updates.  The story begins with Victoria Winters coming to Collinsport, Maine to be a nanny for the Collinwood family while to figure out her past which just happens to lie in Collinsport.  Little does Victoria Winters know, this town is full of colorful characters that will change her life forever.

Place (Distribution)

Dark Shadows would be airing on CW network.  The CW is a small network that is still going through growing pains. They house popular shows such as Gossip Girl, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries.  It is evident their target age is the 18-49 but gets the 13-17 market as well; this bodes well since the revamp of Dark Shadows would want to aim itself at this market. There is also no soap operas currently on the network.  It would be an excellent introduction to the network, and I would get them a different array of advertisers if they were to put the soap on at 4 pm. Its main competitor would be General Hospital (which does skew young), but that soap is sliding down the rating track as we speak.

Promotion (I can go on for days on this part, but I will only go into tiny details if someone asks me to)

The soap would need to premiere around the time tweens, and teens are ending school so around mid to late June. The reason for its 4 pm air time is so the target will be home around that time for dinner, and when the target goes back to school, they can still watch the show live.  Also starting it out in the summer gives it an advantage since a lot of other shows will be on hiatus then. It tones down the competition.

There will be the obvious promotions; commercials, print and online ads and promotional tie-ins to other products that relate to the show.  These ads can be played during other primetime CW shows (Vampire Diaries a great choice); the print ads can be placed in teen publications, and the online promotion can be on the CW website and a few other sites that relate to the Dark Shadows fandom.

Seeing as how the target demographic is well versed in social media there can be a promotional connection there as well.  Starting twitter accounts for the main characters and having them
converse with each other as well as people interested is a great promotion for the show.  It is also an excellent way to connect with fans to figure out how they are feeling about the show and its
characters.

There is also the idea of teaming up with Hulu and Apple to premiere the first episode for free. Get the attention of the kids who live on the internet. Also posting the episodes up on either a designated CW website or YouTube for people to watch if they missed an episode.

Price

Here comes the sticky part.  Soaps are considered cheaper than most, but since this soap would need to produce elements of the supernatural, it might cost a lot more (special effects, makeup, etc.).  Since there aren’t hard numbers available for this type of soap opera it would have to be played by ear.

If you made it this far…

I applaud anyone that is still sitting around and reading this.  It is something I have been thinking about for a while but never had the nerve to put into print, until now of course.  I know that people feel that the soap opera is doomed, and nothing can save it, but networks and viewers are fickle creatures.  Something that is considered dead one year can rise from the grave with one exciting new development of a new show.  That is what revamping Dark Shadows might do for the daytime industry.  We will never know until we try.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree or do you think I am out of my head? I will never know unless you comment!

Have a great week and if anyone asks you to be a nanny in Collinsport….watch your back!

Rice, Lynette. Entertainment Weekly. 1 June
2011. 12 June 2011
<http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/06/01/soap-ratings-2011/&gt;.

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