Latest Soap Opera Ratings: Season Averages For The Last Seven Years

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Latest Soap Opera Ratings: Season Averages For The Last Seven Years

Total Viewers For Each Season Since 2014-2015

SeasonYoung & The Restless+/-Bold & The Beautiful+/-General Hospital+/-Days of Our Lives+/-
2014-154,830,000🧐3,720,000🧐2,860,000🧐2,400,000🧐
2015-164,798,0000%3,697,0000%2,772,000-3%2,381,0000%
2016-174,458,000-7%3,598,0003%2,554,000-8%2,166,000-9%
2017-184,314,000-3%3,477,000-3%2,552,0000%2,254,000+4%
2018-194,070,000-6%3,308,000-5%2,295,000-10%2,121,000-6%
2019-203,568,000-12%3,019,000-9%2,171,000-5%1,908,000-10%
2020-213,264,000-9%2,829,000-6%2,120,000-2%1,697,000-11%
+/- since
2014-15
-1,566,000-32%-891,000-24%-740,000-26%-703,000-29%

Prior to 2015: Viewers Return as Options Dwindle

All four of the soaps saw increases between 2012-2013 to 2014-2015 seasons, but since I don’t have exact numbers, I am going to leave that cute little 🧐 emoji in place of an actual number.

B&B and GH, in particular, saw their audiences increase quite a bit in that period which can be attributed to a few different factors. GH was celebrating its 50th anniversary, saw the influx of many returning favorites, and had hit a creative renaissance in the eyes of many viewers. There was also the cancellation of half the soap operas on the air in the four previous seasons. This may have sent that segment of the audience looking for scripted drama moving towards the only four remaining options in the genre.

While all four soaps benefitted to some degree, both B&B and GH shared an important factor in common. The two soaps saw their direct soap competition in their respective timeslots canceled. B&B no longer had to compete with All My Children at 1:30 PM. GH also moved up an hour to 2:00 PM into canceled One Life To Love’s timeslot. CBS had previously canceled by Guiding Light which aired at 3:00 PM in most markets but aired in the 9:00 AM slot in major markets like NYC where GH dominated. This did not impact the ABC soaps as much as CBS’ cancellation of As The World Turns did the following year. ATWT aired against One Life To Live at 2:00 PM and the season it was canceled OLTL pulled in higher ratings than GH. GH eventually shifted to the 2:00 PM slot vacated by OLTL and eventually outperformed both the final seasons of OLTL and ATWT in that time period.

Soaps Stay Steady With Incremenral Losses in 2015-2017

In 2015-2016, GH posted a loss of 3%, dipping 86,000 viewers year to year. The other three soaps saw negligible declines of 19,000 for DAYS, 23,000 for B&B, and 32,000 for Y&R. The following season saw more substantial declines with DAYS losing the biggest share of its audience (-9%) and Y&R having the biggest loss of 340,000 viewers. GH lost roughly the same amount of viewers as DAYS, but a smaller percentage of its audience. B&B lost the smallest amount, with its 99,000 viewer decline much smaller than its companion on the CBS lineup.

2017-2018 Marks Calm Before The Storm

The 2017-2018 season saw both CBS soap operas stable, with each showing relatively minor three percent declines. Y&R was down 144,000 viewers and B&B lost 121,000 viewers. GH was down a statistically insignificant 2,000 viewers and DAYS added 88,000 viewers to end the season up by four percent.

In that four-year window, DAYS lost 146,000 viewers for a six percent loss, B&B lost 243,000 for a seven percent drop, GH lost 308,000 viewers and Y&R lost 516,000 viewers losing the same audience share of eleven percent.

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2018-2019 Sees Declines Speed Up

From 2018 to 2019, all four soaps saw declines, with GH being the hardest hit. GH lost 247,000 viewers, almost a tenth of its entire audience. This was the biggest percentage loss of any soap that year. DAYS dipped six percent as it lost 134,000 viewers erasing the previous season’s increase. B&B continued to hold up better than Y&R, with the former down five percent (169,000 viewers) and the latter was down 244,000 viewers for a six percent decline.

Shutdown Takes Soaps Off Air (Except DAYS) in Spring/Summer 2020

During 2019-2020 the pandemic shutdown of production took three off the air for months. All four soaps saw season-highs during the beginning of the lockdown in March but three were forced to air reruns on Fridays until episodes ran out. B&B and Y&R went into repeat airings at the end of April and GH followed suit in May. DAYS was the only soap to remain uninterrupted through the entire year and still lost ten percent of its audience ending the season with 1,908,000 million viewers. The Peacock streaming service launched July 2020 coinciding with the first return of the other soap operas’ original episodes.

All Soaps Hit Hard Upon Return…

The remaining soaps all saw substantial declines from the previous year, with the CBS soaps down over a million viewers from their April airings. GH performed better in comparisons with smaller drops and returned to year-ago levels at a faster pace but still lost 124,000 and ended the season down five percent. B&B lost 291,000 viewers with a nine percent decline But longtime leader Y&R was the hardest hit by far, dropping below the 4 million viewer mark in its season average for the first time ever and dipping below 3 million viewers for multiple weeks in its return. The soap opera lost 504,000 viewers that season, marking the biggest single-year percentage decline of any soap opera in at least seven years.

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But All bounced Back By End of 2021 Season

This past season saw declines once again for all four soaps, with DAYS losing the largest share of its audience (eleven percent) and 211,000 viewers overall. The NBC soap opera is thriving in streaming viewers. DAYS received a two-year renewal from the network and a five-part limited series spin-off on the Peacock streaming service. Immediately following the special event, NBC began promoting the soap opera’s fall storylines in a promotional push unlike any in recent memory. GH lost the smallest amount of viewers year over year, down just 51,000 viewers. The soap opera seemed to be dipping more as the season went on but recently hit a seventeen-month high with 2,389,000 viewers tuning in the final week of the season.

B&B continued to hold up better than Y&R, although both bounced back considerably compared to the end of last season. B&B lost six percent of its audience as it lost 190,000 viewers while Y&R dropped nine percent with a 304,000 viewer loss. Y&R and B&B remain the top two soap operas in total viewers.

Y&R Has Lost Nearly 1/3 of Audience in 7 years

Of the four soaps on the air, Y&R has the honor of being most-watched but unfortunately has lost the most viewers over the past seven seasons. The CBS soap has lost almost a third of its entire audience, losing 1,566,000 viewers. In comparison, B&B has lost 891,000 viewers in seven years for the smallest percentage decline of twenty-four percent, GH lost twenty-six percent (down 740,000 viewers) and DAYS lost twenty-nine percent (703,000 viewers). What may be the most alarming is that in the last two years alone Y&R lost 804,000 viewers. That’s nearly as much as B&B and substantially more than GH and DAYS declined in SEVEN years.

Last Two Years Have Seen Bigger Declines Due to Pandemic

The last two years have been difficult for the soaps. Although it is worth pointing out that while DAYS has lost 424,000 viewers in two years, those viewers seem to have shifted to the streaming service. This strong digital presence seems to have canceled out any losses in the eyes of NBC. ABC’s GH has lost 175,000 viewers in the last two years, the smallest decline of the four soaps in that time span and the smallest two-year decline the soap has had in seven years. GH remains the strongest performing soap among time-shifting viewers, with an additional 300,000 viewers watching the soap on DVR in the 7 day period that follows each airing. ABC has not revealed how well it performs including VOD, ABC.com streams, or the Disney-owned Hulu streaming service.

B&B was retaining just 77 percent of the lead-in audience provided by Y&R in the 2014-2015 season. Despite both losing viewers, B&B now retains an average of 87 percent of Y&R’s lead-in this past season. It is worth noting that Y&R has a lead-in of 30-minutes of local news which is preceded by long-running CBS gameshow the Price in Right which regularly pulls in over 4,000,000 viewers. Despite the gameshow’s strength, Y&R is effectively not benefitting from as directly compatible lead-in as B&B. DAYS is the sole national program airing in the afternoon on NBC with the rest of the daytime lineup airing prior to noon under the Today Show banner. GH’s lead-in is the low-rated GMA3: What You Need To Know, which averages roughly 1,500,000 viewers. For perspective, this past week an hour of Price Is Right pulled in 4,166,000 viewers while Y&R pulled in 3,463,000. B&B retained 85% of its lead-in with 2,9411,000 viewers. GH’s 2,389,00 comes out to be 52% higher than GMA3, which pulled in 1,568,000 viewers.

Soap Declines Versus Network Television Overall

SeasonCBSLYNBCLYABCLY
2014-159,375,000🧐8,264,000πŸ€“6,838,000πŸ₯³
2015-169,419,0000%7,757,000-6%6,894,000+1%
2016-178,814,000-6%8,426,0009%6,325,000-8%
2017-187,996,000-9%7,284,000-14%5,592,000-12%
2018-197,385,000-8%7,876,0008%5,423,000-3%
2019-207,140,000-3%6,330,000-20%5,192,000-4%
2020-216,260,000-12%5,300,000-16%4,690,000-10%
+/- since 2014-15-3,115,000-33%-2,964,000-36%-2,148,000-31%

The Four Soaps Out-Perform Their Network

Only Y&R is performing in line with the declines of its respective network. CBS has lost a third of its audience, just a tad more than Y&R has in the same seven-year period. This is with Live+Seven Day figures included for the most recent seasons so Y&R is actually doing considerably better. B&B is down the lowest percentage of the soaps and is losing viewers at a much slower pace than CBS overall.

ABC had lost about the equivalent of all of GH’s current audience over the last seven years. GH has lost 26 percent of viewers in seven years (not including Live+7 day viewers) while ABC has lost 31 percent with those viewers added to the total. DAYS is performing well compared to NBC’s 36 percent decline which is padded by the additional DVR viewers not included for DAYS.

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