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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - CBS said on Tuesday it was canceling one of its longest-running daytime television soap operas, "As the World Turns", after 54 years.
The show, the last remaining daytime drama made by a Procter & Gamble media unit that coined the term "soap opera", will air its final episode in September 2010.
The multiple Emmy-award winning show set in the fictional Midwestern town of Oakdale helped launch the careers of Hollywood stars Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore and James Earl Jones.
Starting in 1956, it was among the top-rated shows in the 1960s and in 1988 it introduced the first gay male character on U.S. daytime television.
But ratings have slipped to about 2.5 million viewers currently from about 6.5 million in 1993.
"It's extremely difficult to say good-bye to a long-running series that's been close to our hearts for so long," said Barbara Bloom, senior vice president of daytime programing at CBS.
"The almanacs will show 'As The World Turns' as a pioneer of the format, a hallmark for quality with its numerous Emmys, the launching pad for many television and film stars and a daytime ratings powerhouse for parts of three decades," she said.
The demise of "As The World Turns" follows the cancellation by CBS earlier this year of "Guiding Light" after a 72-year run -- the world's longest running radio and TV soap opera.
Both shows were made by Procter & Gamble subsidiary TeleNext Media, which was set up in 1933 to produce programing to promote its soap and laundry detergents.
"'As The World Turns' has been a cornerstone of our business and a tremendous asset to the company," TeleNext Media managing director Brian T.Cahill said in a statement. Cahill said TeleNext Media was searching for a new outlet to carry both shows.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte