Days Of Our Lives: A Ratings History
In honor of the Days of our Lives’ spin-off on Peacock, a look at its ratings history on NBC
Before You Go Beyond Salem, Go Through All Of Days Of Our Lives: A Ratings History
Are NBC’s Soap ‘DAYS’ numbered? No More Sand In The Hourglass? No More ‘DAYS’ Left? End of ‘DAYS’? If I had a dollar for every lousy pun used to describe the looming specter of the inevitable cancellation of Days of Our Lives, I’d be able to fund all four soap operas in perpetuity. DAYS’ impending doom has been a hotter topic in the soap industry than any of the soap operas’ outlandish plots actual plot in over a decade. But somehow, NBC’s only daytime drama has clawed its way back from certain death more often than a character on a soap opera.
DAYS getting spin-off
Even after the surprise, two-season renewal DAYS received, few expected NBC to announce a spin-off in the form of a five-episode limited series exclusive to the Peacock streaming service. Yes, you read that correctly. DAYS, the lowest-rated soap playing for some time, is getting a spin-off. Days: Beyond Salem will focus on various characters, past and present, as they venture out from Salem to cities worldwide. Not only does it sound made up, but it is also actually an incredibly excellent idea.
DAYS premieres hits #1 in 1973-1974
DAYS has had a reputation for struggling in the ratings in recent years. But as bad as the ratings have been at different times during the soap’s 56 years on the air, it’s had just as many good days. DAYS launched in 1965 as a 30-minute soap and debuted in 10th place and by the end of the decade has moved up to number 5. DAYS and Another World proved a good fit on NBC’s schedule and moved up the chart in the early 70s. The two NBC soaps would tie with As The World Turns on CBS for first place in the 1973-1974 season.
NBC gets bigger DAYS, lower ratings
NBC made the bold move to expand both soaps to an hour-long format, becoming the first two soaps to do so. The hour-long format came just as DAYS began to slip in popularity. The soap opera dropped to second place in 1974-1975, then tied for fourth the following year just ahead of its timeslot competition on ABC, All My Children. By 1978, DAYS had dropped behind All My Children and fledgling Ryan’s Hope, One Life To Live, and the almost canceled General Hospital.
DAYS uncertain as NBC ends The Doctors and Texas
Things were not looking good for DAYS at the start of the ’80s, as NBC’s lineup was obliterated by ABC’s mega-successful lineup of GH, AMC, and OLTL in the top three spots. NBC needed an overhaul in the daytime and made aggressive moves. NBC canceled AW spinoff Texas after just two years AND canceled Doctors just three months short of celebrating its 20th anniversary. By the time both soaps ended in the 1982-1983 season, DAYS had climbed to number eight and stood as the top NBC soap.
NBC launches Santa Barbara as DAYS returns to top of the ratings
In the summer of 1984, NBC launched a new soap, Santa Barbara, which paired the dramatic twists of soaps with witty writing a cut above the rest of daytime and most of primetime. NBC watched as SB picked up a small but loyal audience while DAYS moved up every year, climbing to number four in 1986-1987.
DAYS would slowly climb up the chart in the ’80s to become the highest-rated soap on NBC, eventually climbing to number 4 in the 1986-1987 season. DAYS would even steal back the #1 from GH in 1988 with the wedding of Patch and Kayla. The time at the top was brief-really brief, and it was Young, and the Restless would permanently end GH’s nine-year run at the top instead of DAYS.
NBC tries Another World meets Different World
Still impressed by DAYS, NBC began developing a ‘daytime comedy’ spin-off for the character Calliope Jones, which was a hit with both audiences and critics at the time. While the series never materialized, DAYS was the centerpiece of NBC’s lineup as it attempted to revolutionize the genre. The effort had begun with Santa Barbara seemed to pay off as the show grew to its largest audience in 1988. Santa Barbara followed up this audience growth with three consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards for Best Drama in 1989, 1990, and 1991. Hoping to continue raising the bar for daytime television, NBC continued to take cues from primetime with its next new soap opera, Generations
After launching two of the biggest hits in network television history in The Cosby Show and spinoff A Different World, by showcasing series with almost entirely Black casts, NBC attempted to recreate that success in the daytime. In 1989, NBC launched the critically acclaimed half-hour soap Generations, which focused on a Black family and a White family whose lives had intersected and intertwined for three generations. At the end of the decade, NBC’s DAYS was still among the top-rated at number five.
The following year DAYS fell back to 7th place, its longest-running soap Another World in 9th, the Emmy winning Santa Barbara in 10th, and new addition Generations ranking 12th out of 12 soap operas. After just 22 months on the air, NBC ended Generations. Santa Barbara’s fortunes reversed as it won critical acclaim, losing a third of its audience during its award-winning streak. The critical acclaim meant little to NBC without an audience, and Santa Barbara was canceled two years after Generations ended. Meanwhile, DAYS fell from the top five thanks to erratic ratings. It was not uncommon for DAYS to see-saw up and down the chart, climbing as high as number two and falling to seventh in a matter of weeks.
Diedre Hall and Manhattan Lives
In a casting coupe, NBC managed to woo Diedre Hall back in 1992 after a five-year absence. The network was able to secure the high-profile return of Hall with its second attempt at developing a DAYS spinoff. The proposed series centered on Hall’s Marlena being transplanted to New York City and entitled ‘Manhattan Lives’ was buzzed about in soap magazines for a month as a replacement for either Santa Barbara or Another World. When NBC canceled Santa Barbara in 1993, the network opted not to add another soap to its lineup. The surprise decision came as DAYS fell to 8th place end of that season.
NBC sells its soul to the devil
Deal with the devil pays off
The OJ Simpson trial drastically impacted the habits of soap viewers. Nearly every soap lost viewers thanks to interruptions by the trial, which came at random and for long periods. Oddly enough, DAYS held steady thanks to James E. Reilly’s inspired insanity, comfort with controversy and his willingness to push the envelope. Reilly executed the now-legendary demonic possession of Marlena. The writer had Diedre Hall desecrating churches, levitating off a bed, speaking in tongues and a deep. demonic voice.
The story ended up trashed by critics. And it even alienated some longtime viewers. Still, young women tuned into DAYS at a time when the other soaps could not find their footing. DAYS jumped from eighth place in 1993 to number 2 in 1996 and, during its three-year run, came within half a million viewers of beating Y&R for first place. Most important for NBC was the fact that DAYS was now thriving with younger viewers.
NBC brings Aaron Spelling to daytime
With its success among young women, NBC planned another daytime overhaul. This time around, NBC spent considerable amounts of money recruiting primetime producer Aaron Spelling to work his magic in the daytime. Spelling had never produced a daytime soap opera but was responsible for successfully making the FOX network a destination for young women with Melrose Place and 90210. NBC envisioned Spelling’s creation as the perfect contemporary companion for DAYS when Sunset Beach launched in 1997.
Contentious contract negotiations
While DAYS was a massive success for NBC, it was also expensive to keep. Unlike ABC, which owned all of its soap operas outright, NBC paid a licensing fee to (and CBS Y&R and B&B ) producer Columbia Tristar Television (now Sony Television) to carry the soap. During the contract negotiations for DAYS’ renewal, the two sides hit an impasse, and rumors swirled about the soap’s future. ABC and CBS were rumored to express interest in picking up the series. The talks dragged on when NBC finally reached a deal in 1998.
Sunset Beach flops… hard
Alas, Sunset Beach quickly fell to the last place behind ABC’s already canceled The City. Undeterred, NBC began development on another attempt to capitalize on DAYS success with younger women, this time, it went a more straightforward route. NBC commissioned an original soap opera from the architect of the demonic possession storyline that helped DAYS explode earlier in the decade, James E. Reilly. The soap opera, entitled Passions, would become the most expensive investment by a network launching a soap opera ever. The soap was targeted at girls 12-17 and women 18-24 and took its cue from Buffy The Vampire slayer, mixing comic elements with fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.
AW stops turning, sun sets on Sunset Beach
In 1999 the time came for NBC to decide whether to replace AW or Sunset Beach to make room for Passion. NBC chose to end 35-year-old Another World, despite pulling in over a million more viewer than last place Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach, which skewed younger but still lagged AW, secured renewal in part because it shifted its tone to better match DAYS and Passions. Impersonating DAYS did nothing for Sunset Beach in the long run, as NBC ended up dropping the show just six months later.
Passions/DAYS pull in the younger viewers
Passions eventually became the highest-rated soap among girls 12-17 and women 18-24. DAYS would be a solid second in those demographic ranking number 1 in women 18-34. The network even beat ABC during the 2001-2002 season in women 18-49 with the combination of DAYS and Passions.
NBC hires Reilly to repeat ratings success
However, the early 2000s, saw all the soaps’ ratings drop precipitously, with DAYS dropping to 4th place and Passions losing momentum. By 2003, DAYS was in a horse raise against All My Children, As The World Turns and One Life To Live in total viewers, ranking anywhere between 4th and 7th place with roughly 3.7 million viewers. NBC turned once again to James E. Reilly to grab viewers. Reilly orchestrated a serial killer storyline and proceeded to kill half the cast in the most gruesome and outlandish) ways possible. Reilly succeeded once again, with DAYS hitting a peak of 5.3 million viewers with the revelation that Marlena was the murderer, only for her to die in a hail of gunfire on screen.
Reilly’s ratings boom short-lived
While the shock and awe plot successfully brought in viewers in the short term, the audience seemed exhausted by the bizarre story and senseless violence. The storyline continued to have twists and turns. By the time all the victims, including Marlena, were revealed to be alive and well on a mysterious island, viewers had given up. After climbing to number two, the show declined by almost 30%, effectively back at square one.
End of NBC’s Passions
Despite winning younger viewers and beating Guiding Light from time to time, NBC chose to end Passions in 2007. The cancellation of Passions in 2007 left DAYS as NBC’s only soap opera. This began the era where rumors of an inevitable end of DAYS swirled. NBC did little to allay cancellation fears, with a network executive commenting that they didn’t expect the show to continue past 2008.
CBS and ABC cancels two soaps each but DAYS survives
Still number one in daytime, CBS made the shocking decision to cancel Guiding Light after 60 years. The decision came after cost cutting measures drastcally altered the look and feel of the soap. The following year CBS cancelled As The World Turns with little buzz or fanfare accompanying its end. Just 8 months later, ABC announced the cancellation of both All My Children and One Life To Live, the latterly which was the second highest rating in younger demographics and ABC’s top soap. The cancellation of five soap operas in less than four years did not bode well for any of the soaps, least of all DAYS.
The cancellation of so many beloved soap operas and the nostalgia brought on by the 50th anniversary of General Hospital renewed public interest in the genre. During the years that followed, the soaps saw consistent growth and hit multi-year high, including DAYS. In 2014, NBC renewed the soap for three more years.
NBC’s negotiation tactics/DAYS stays on through pandemic, loses more viewers
Things took a huge step backward in 2019 when NBC took all actors off contact during the annual production hiatus, sparking fears among cast, crew, and fans alike. The negotiating tactic held the participants over a barrel, either agreeing to lower pay or blaming the network for not making concessions to keep the soap on the air.
In early 2020, NBC renewed the soap opera again, highlighting it as a feature of its Peacock streaming service. Then COVID-19 happened to send the entire film and television production industry to a screeching halt, leaving GH, Y&R, and B&B in reruns. DAYS remained on the air without interruption. Unfortunately, being the only game in town did nothing to boost DAYS numbers, and the soap continued to decline. This trend continued through the past season, and DAYS is pulling in fewer viewers than ever.
Peacock ensures more DAYS
In April 2021, to the surprise of nearly everyone, NBC renewed DAYS once for another two years. NBC also made DAYS available for streaming exclusively on Peacock a few weeks ago, a sign of confidence that viewers will follow the show to the service. With the announcement of the 5 part limited series, NBC confirms what had been hoped for by fans and rumored within the industry since last year. DAYS is thriving on Peacock with its loss of live viewers is the product of shifting viewing habits. This decision by NBC is not just a sign that DAYS’ performance is good enough to avoid cancellation, but a warning that the genre as a whole has bright days ahead of it.
DAYS: Beyond Salem
The limited series will include some of the most popular characters, past and present. These characters include: “Lisa Rinna as Billie Reed, Deidre Hall as Dr. Marlena Evans, Drake Hogestyn as John Black, Jackée Harry as Paulina Price, James Reynolds as Abe Carver, Victoria Konefal as Ciara Brady, Robert Scott Wilson as Ben Weston, Billy Flynn as Chad DiMera, Lamon Archey as Eli Grant, and Sal Stowers as Lani Price. NBC notes that “additional beloved characters” will be involved in the miniseries.”NBC’s press release gave even more details for fans to be excited about: “Over a long weekend, John and Marlena travel to Zurich; Ben and Ciara have a romantic getaway in New Orleans; Chad visits some old friends in Phoenix; and Abe, Paulina, Lani, and Eli vacation in Miami. All find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving stolen jewels which, in the wrong hands, could cause dire consequences for Salem. It’s a race against time for ISA agent Billie Reed as she crosses the globe searching for this missing treasure.”
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