LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - ABC television on Thursday announced it was canceling its long-running daytime soap operas “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”, hastening the demise of a genre marked by dramatic plot twists, cliffhangers and multiple generations of characters.
ABC said the two dramas would be replaced by new programing focused on “transformation, food and lifestyle”, saying that audience research had shown that these issues were of more interest to viewers.
The final episodes of the two shows will air in September 2011 and January 2012 respectively, ABC said in a statement. But “General Hospital”, the second-most popular show in daytime TV, will remain on the air, the network added.
Audiences for the two soaps have fallen in recent years. “All My Children”, which began in 1970, currently has about 2.4 million regular viewers, down form 3.2 million in 2006, ABC said.
Thursday’s announcement follows the ending in 2009 of CBS soaps “Guiding Light” and “As The World Turns” in 2010.
“Viewers are looking for different types of programing these days,” said Brian Frons, president of daytime programing at ABC, adding they wanted “informative, authentic and fun shows that are relatable, offer a wide variety of opinions and focus on ‘real life’ takeaways.”
He said the two shows would conclude “in a manner that respects their legacies and the long-standing hopes of many viewers.”
ABC said the new shows would be “Chew”, which focuses on food “from every angle”, and make-over series “The Revolution”, with fashion mentor Tim Gunn.
“All My Children”, about the lives of resident in fictional Pine Valley, made its debut on ABC in 1970. “One Life to Live,” set in the fictional town of Llanview, began airing in 1968. Both shows have won multiple awards, including daytime Emmys, and earned praise for tackling social issues including alcoholism, AIDS and illiteracy.
“It’s been a fantastic journey,” said actress Susan Lucci, 64, who has played Erica Kane on “All My Children” since 1970.
Kelly Ripa, who played Hayley Vaughn on the drama for 12 years, said she felt “heart sick” that the series was ending.
“‘All My Children’ was more than a job — it was my family. It was there that I met my husband; it was there when my first two children were born; it was there where I met many of my life-long friends,” Ripa said in a statement.
Popular culture experts attribute the demise of daytime soap operas to changing social patterns, including women working, the melodrama of some reality TV shows, and cheaper to make game shows and talk shows.
An average of 6.5 million people regularly watched daytime dramas in 1991, compared to about 1.3 million last year, according to Nielsen figures.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing Christine Kearney