Monday, May 20, 2024

Writer’s Strike: Soap Operas Running Out of Scripts, Ratings Down by 200K in Three Weeks Despite Blackmail, Murder, Amnesia, Affairs


The Writer’s Guild strike has already had a serious effect on the remaining four soap operas.

In the three weeks of ratings since May 1st, when the strike began, soap ratings have fallen around 200,000 total viewers each for “The Young and the Restless,” “General Hospital.” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” “Y&R” for example had 3.4 million viewers the first week of May and just 3.2 million the third week.

“Days of our Lives,” on NBC’s Peacock, doesn’t release ratings anymore.

This is more than strange for the month of May, a sweeps month in which the soaps up the murder, blackmail, amnesia, baby swapping, and so on. It’s not normal to see the ratings go down in May.

What’s the problem? Despite still having new shows, the soaps have fallen victim to the destruction around them in daytime TV. Nearly everything else is in reruns because of the strike. All of the talk shows like “The Talk” and anything else that requires a script — including, of course, the late night talk shows — is a rerun.

Things are so bad that syndication companies are no longer releasing ratings for talk shows. No one’s seen a number since the end of April.

Soon things will get worse. Those three soaps are about to run out of scripts. When they do, either scabs will come to write the shows, or the writers themselves will have to elect keep working as “fi-core.” This may have already begun on the trio of network shows. “Fi core” or financial core happens when a writer elects to stay in the union, pay dues, but basically receive no benefits and forfeits voting rights. Fi-core writers were not popular among the strikers during the 2007-2008 strike, and certainly won’t be this time around.

Of course, all of this is moot if the Directors Guild and/or SAG-AFTRA join the strike. When the soaps had to air reruns during the pandemic it was a dire time. An industry-wide strike could kill them off for good.

It’s a cliffhanger, but not the good kind. And the villain isn’t Erica Kane. It’s the studios. It’s time for them to wrap this up.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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