NBC's two daytime dramas have been beset with rumors that their days are coming to an end. For many soap fans the rumors are just part of the norm -- CBS's Guiding Light has been rumored to be on its last leg for the better part of a decade.
Like Guiding Light, NBC's Passions has been beleaguered by poor ratings ever since its debut in July 1999. Passions does, however, have some pluses in its favor: its typical viewer skews young, the very type of viewer that advertisers crave.
Days of our Lives, meanwhile, has been on the air much longer than Passions. The show celebrated in 40th year on the air in November 2005, a major milestone for any scripted television program. But the show almost didn't reach that magic milestone.
In late 2002, talks between NBC, Corday Productions, the owners of Days of our Lives, and Sony, the distribution company for the show, broke down during the renegotiation process for continuing the broadcast of the show. Because of the show's shrinking ratings, a problem facing all of television's daytime drama series, the fees and licensing costs became a major issue during the talks. When it looked like the three partners might not reach an agreement, there were whispers that a rival network - particularly ABC - might try to acquire the rights to broadcast Days of our Lives.
Eventually, it was announced that a new deal was reached and Days of our Lives had been renewed for another five years. But there new deal came with stipulations. First, in an attempt to cut costs, James E. Reilly was brought back as head writer. At the time, Reilly was also serving as head writer for Passions. The scribe continues to work in the same capacity for both shows. The second condition was that DAYS' renewal would come in two parts -- an automatic three-year renewal and an option to pick up the final two years after that. The option for renewal comes up in March 2006.
"We're going into this future of television [which is] going to be changing very drastically in the next five years in all of the dayparts," NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly said during DAYS' 40th anniversary celebration. "You see the iPod deals, watching shows on people's cell phones... and we're going to be working very hard to figure out how [to] keep this great franchise alive."
Reilly hinted that NBC may need to find alternative ways to distribute the show. That, said Reilly, would land squarely on the shoulders of Sony.
It isn't as though executives involved with Days of our Lives have not been seeking out ways to get new eyes to tune into the show. In 2004, same-day repeats of Days of our Lives bean airing in primetime on the Disney-owned cable channel, SOAPnet. DAYS episodes had also been available for download on the Sony-operated Soap City web site. That service was suspended earlier this year. Last month, NBC and Sony partnered up for a "frequent viewer" program allowing DAYS viewers to answer trivia questions in return for points that are redeemable for DAYS (and Sony) merchandise. NBC, meanwhile, entered a partnership with Apple earlier this month that allows iPod/iTunes users to download episodes of its primetime shows. As of "post time" no plans were made to offer episodes of Days of our Lives or Passions as part of this service.
If an agreement to continue to airing of Days of our Lives is not reached, the show could potentially go off the air sometime in 2007.