The announcement will surely send soap fans into a panic. The Walt Disney Company announced today that it has decided to pull the plug on its all-soaps cable channel, SOAPnet. It will be replaced by Disney Junior, a channel that caters to preschool children.
"SOAPnet was created in 2000 to give daytime viewers the ability to watch time-shifted soaps, before multi-platform viewing and DVRs were part of our vocabulary," Disney Media Networks President Anne Sweeney said in a statement. "But today, as technology and our businesses evolve, it makes more sense to align this distribution with a preschool channel that builds on the core strengths of our company."
Still, soap fans are understandably nervous.
"They shouldn't be worried," Brian Frons, President, Daytime, Disney-ABC Television Group, told Soap Opera Digest. "We've known about this for a while internally and that hasn't stopped us from moving All My Children to the West Coast, to giving One Life to Live a bigger stage, to continuing to commit to big events for these shows. So, the commitment to the shows, the commitment to making them the best they can be, is still the same." [To read Frons' entire statement to the magazine, click here.]
The timing of the announcement to scrap SOAPnet comes just a few weeks after Disney-ABC Television Group announced that SOAPnet had increased its channel viewership to more than 75 million viewers.
SOAPnet is currently seeking to secure long-term advertising for SOAPnet, according to the New York Times. In an interesting twist, Disney Junior will not feature advertising. The channel will be supported through fees that Disney is paid by cable companies to carry its television channels.
With daytime ratings for soaps on the decline, SOAPnet has widely been seen as a way for soaps to expand their audiences -- and generate additional revenue. Last year, ABC announced that it would air episodes of its three soaps online at ABC.com.
SOAPnet current airs same-day repeats of ABC's three daytime dramas -- All My Children, General Hospital, and One Life to Live -- and the Sony-distributed soaps, Days of our Lives and The Young and the Restless.
SOAPnet will remain on the air through January 2012.
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