Procter & Gamble, the company responsible for the phrase "soap operas," is out of the daytime drama business after 76 years now that CBS is making "As the World Turns" stop spinning.
The network announced the cancellation on Tuesday, the day "As the World Turns" broadcast its 13,661st episode. Its last episode will air next September, CBS said.
It's the second daytime drama CBS has canceled in a year, after "Guiding Light." They were the last two produced by a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, the company for which the term "soap operas" was created because it used the shows to hawk products like Ivory soap and Duz laundry detergent.
Daytime dramas have been fading as a genre for years with more women joining the work force and the increased number of channels offering alternatives like news, talk, reality and game shows. In tough economic times, paying casts, producers and writers proved prohibitive to networks when there were cheaper alternatives.
The cancellation will leave CBS with only two daytime dramas: "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and Beautiful." ABC has three soaps left and NBC one.
Through the years, actors Marisa Tomei, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey and James Earl Jones have appeared on "As the World Turns." The show follows families in the Illinois town of Oakdale.
"It's a hell of a Christmas present," said actress Eileen Fulton, who will mark 50 years playing the character Lisa Grimaldi on the show. Her character has been through nine marriages and Fulton was hoping for a 10th before the signoff.
"I'm just very sad," she said. "I'm sad for all of the people who work out there in Brooklyn (where the show is filmed). We're a family. I hate to be split up. It's like a divorce."
Brian Cahill, senior vice president and managing director of the P&G subsidiary TeleNext Media Inc., said the company is actively seeking a new outlet to carry the show.
TeleNext said the same thing about "Guiding Light," which went off the air in September, but has been unable to find a new home. Keeping the show alive online has been discussed, but that's an alternative where cost may prove prohibitive.
CBS' move was not entirely unexpected, said Carolyn Hinsey, columnist for Soap Opera Digest. The network and Procter & Gamble were facing pressure to make cheaper shows, but how producers decided to spend their money _ instead of just how much _ contributed to the show's demise, she said.
Specifically, actress Martha Byrne left "As the World Turns" last year in a contract dispute. Byrne had played Lily Snyder from 1985 to 1989, then rejoined the cast in that role in 1993; she also played Lily's long-lost identical twin sister from 2000 to 2003.
That was a particularly damaging loss, Hinsey said.
"You lose the heart of the show and people walk," she said.
ABC seems most committed to the genre's future, she said. It is moving "All My Children" to a new studio in California and is investing in high-definition photography, she said.
Procter & Gamble first began producing soap operas in 1933 with the radio show "Ma Perkins," and has made a total of 20 such programs in its history.
CBS is a division of CBS Corp.
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