How are General Hospital’s Ratings? A Look Back From The Shutdown Through All of 2021
As 2021 draws to a close, General Hospital has performed in the ratings and what the future may hold for television’s longest running series.
Last year was a television year like no other, thanks to the pandemic. Like almost every other industry, the pandemic halted film and television production, and the four daytime soap operas were no exception. Except for Days of Our Lives which had a unique production schedule that shot episodes almost nine months ahead of time, daytime dramas ran out of episodes by the end of spring.
General Hospital remained on the air longer than the CBS soaps by splitting the last remaining episodes that had been shot and adding flashback sequences when it was appropriate. The last original episode of GH aired on May 21, 2020.
The lack of competition did not help Days of Our Lives when it was flying solo. DAYS saw its audience shrink throughout the summer and continued to dip when the other shows returned. The NBC soap averaged 1.98 million viewers from the start of the season through GH’s final week of original episodes. DAYS averaged 1.79 million viewers during the eight weeks as the sole daytime drama airing original episodes. DAYS had lost 10 percent of its audience in two short months and hadn’t even been interrupted.
Weak Post-Shutdown Ratings Plague Soaps
As the first show back in production, B&B returned to CBS on July 20, which gave the series a two-week head start on the competition. Critics savaged B&B for its obvious use of mannequins during an intimate scene and plodding pacing. Taking a cue from GH, B&B also relied heavily on flashbacks to ease viewers back into the storylines. While this worked on the hour-long ABC soap known for faster moving stories, it was a disaster on the half-hour CBS soap.
Whether it was the quality of episodes or the breaking of viewers’ years-long habits, B&B returned to series lows. When the series went on hiatus, it averaged 3.19 million viewers, with 3.275 million turning in during that final week of original episodes. B& B’s first week back on the air averaged just 2.105 million viewers, a staggering 36 percent decline and loss of over 1.175 million viewers. The following week viewership fell again to a series low of 2.033 million.
GH Held Up Better Than Peers
When GH premiered on August 3, the ABC soap quickly returned to a brisk storytelling pace. GH also hit series lows with 1.907 million viewers for the initial week, down from the pre-hiatus average of 2.21 million viewers. Compared to B&B, the soap lost just 13% of its audience from the last week of original episodes.
Nobody was hurt more by the hiatus than top-rated Young & The Restless. The show returned with new episodes on August 10, a week after GH and three weeks after fellow CBS soap B&B. The hour-long CBS series pulled in 4.04 million viewers during its last week of originals in April. The weaker performances of its peers had lowered expectations, but the resulting 2.685 million viewer average was a shock. The series lost 34 percent of its audience in the three and a half months it was off the air.
Despite Slow Start, Shutdown Benefitted GH
While GH was hurt by the hiatus initially, but mitigated losses by telling exciting stories and utilizing pandemic restrictions to its benefit. The time off seemed to allow writers to fine-tune the plots, making for better pacing and flow. The restrictions on the number of actors allowed on set during scenes resulted in a wider variety of characters interacting and a more even distribution of screen time among the cast. The overall quality of episodes seemed to improve as well since the cast and crew were producing five episodes each week as opposed to 7 episodes, allowing for more time to be devoted to better execution of each scene.
With the resolution of Wiley’s custody hearing, the growing threat of Cyrus Renault, a hostile takeover of ELQ, and the surprise announcement of the Nurse’s Ball, there was a sense of urgency to the soap that the other three lacked. The ABC soap opera had popular characters return with Dante Falconeri on a mission to stop both Peter and Anna, Dr. Liesl Obrecht pulling the strings with support from within the WSB, and Dr. Britt Westbourne hired by Cyrus as the new chief of staff at the hospital.
Tweaking The Nurse’s Ball Was Genius
The changes made to the Nurse’s Ball, usually a difficult undertaking with cast and crew dressed to the nines while engaging in choreographed musical numbers, was a brilliant move. None of the four soaps referenced the pandemic that had upended the world, but GH found a way to address the issue anyway. This year’s benefit gala had the cast don Nurses’ Ball t-shirts and black jeans and handling phone banks for donations in support of frontline workers.
GH’s used the Nurse’s Ball to tell a story that was action packed: the chloraforming, a kidnapping, a throat slashing, an attempted double cross, a revelation of a faked-death, a shoot-out, a race against time, emergency surgery, a confrontation, a cat fight and a fall of from a cliff and a coverup. Did this pay off for the soap? Absolutely. The soap also got ratings mileage out of Olivia and Robert’s trip to Europe to see Dante followed by a mission to Monaco featuring the return of Ethan and the shocking cameo by Emma Samms as Holly
- GH started out with three straight weeks of record-low viewership.
- By the end of the first month GH had bounced back above 2 million viewers.
- In Women 18-49, GH beat its competition for the first six out of seven weeks
- GH was the first soap to perform at above pre-shutdown levels
New Season, New Problems
GH started the season coming off a string of victories and scored its seventh win in women 18-49 out of eight weeks. But the following weeks would stunt the series momentum somewhat. First, a baseball scheduling disaster resulted in just two episodes of GH airing, one of which was a last-minute decision to send GH to rating lows.
That week, GH averaged just 1.665 million viewers and ranked last in women 18-49 and 25-54. The following week, the soap also didn’t see too much growth, with Kim Delaney joining the cast as Jackie Templeton. Struggling well into October, GH fell back below 2 million viewers, back in second place in women 18-49 and even a week in third place and consistently in third among women 25-54.
Explosions and Genie Francis’s Return Boost Ratings For The Holidays
While GH seemed to lose momentum in October, there was a turnaround with November Sweeps. The conclusion of the Anna versus Alex storyline, complete with a shootout on the Haunted Star, Anna was finding out she was not Peter’s mother, the redemption of Valentin, Maxie’s kidnapping, and Finn’s fight for his life boosted GH to season highs in total viewers.
Thanksgiving saw the return of Genie Francis as well as the explosion at the Floating Rib and the deaths of Dev and Dustin. The plot point also sent Lulu off the show and set up Julian Jerome’s exit. The following six weeks were pretty spectacular for GH:
- GH ranked either number 1 in women 18-49 or number 2 for six straight weeks beginning 11/23
- Four of those six weeks were the highest rated in women 18-49 for the entire 2020-2021 season (11/23, 12/7, 12/21, 12/28)
- GH ranked second place for four out of the six weeks in women 25-54
- Four of GH’s top five performances in women 25-54 so far that season season-to-date
- From 11/23 through 12/28, all six weeks ranked as the six highest rated in total viewers for the season-to-date
- GH hit/tied its season high in total viewers on 11/30 and 12/28
- In women 18-49, GH hit its season high on 11/23, tied its season high on 12/7 and hit a new high on 12/28
The soap began setting up Brando and Sasha’s romance, beginning with her near-fatal drug overdose. Laura found out that Cyrus and Martin were her brothers. Julian escaped Port Charles but could not escape death. Sonny fell to his “death,” and Carly stepped up in his absence. Alexis spiraled further into alcoholism.
Breaking News Interrupts GH’s Momentum, Slows Down Through Spring
GH was hit with a series of hurdles over the next few months. January and February brought preemptions beginning with the capital riots on January 6 and ensuing news coverage through the weeks that followed. The news coverage of the events drove GH’s ratings to the lowest since the early fall. Late January and February saw an upswing, although more preemptions were due to the second impeachment hearings. Maxie and Peter/Finn, and Anna’s wedding successfully revealed Peter as a villain to everyone in Port Charles. Leisl was able to return
The soap also made a few unpopular decisions, such as setting up the final ending of Peter, only to pull back and kill off the popular Franco. The decision particularly upset fans of Elizabeth, who saw it as another slight against the character. Amanda Setton rejoined the cast as Brooklynn firmly placed her in ANOTHER baby switch storyline with Maxie. Nina learned the truth about Nelle being her daughter and confronted Carly. Viewers bemoaned the Nixon Falls storyline even before the addition of Nina.
March saw a rating info blackout on total viewer data for most of March and April. The demographics GH began to settle into the lower range of its performance earlier in the year. The ABC soap ranked third in viewers and both demographics through this entire portion of the season.
|Date||Total Viewers||Women |
GH Seesaws Through the Summer
As the summer began, the soap seemed to get to satisfying payoffs for various storylines. After an excruciating 13 month wait, Maxie finally had her baby with the help of Roger Howarth in the new role of unknown Quartermaine heir, Austin Gatlin-Holt. Brooklynn presented Val with his new “daughter.” Peter poisoned Chase instead of Finn and blackmailed Anna.
Jason escaped jail and went on the run with Britt. Carly stood up to Cyrus and took Sonny’s place as head of the five families. Cameron cracked up and pulled a gun on police, which facilitated a surprisingly frank discussion on race between Portia and Jordan. Cyrus finally was taken down by police in no small part to Laura. Jordan and Curtis made their divorce official. Shawn returned, and Alexis found herself using her legal skills from prison. A recast Spencer caused drama for Ava, Nikolas, and romanced Trina. Spencer’s girlfriend Esme arrived with a connection to Ryan Chamberlain.
GH hit a season-high in total viewers on June 21, tying its best women 18-49 rating with a .39 of 2021 and the second-highest rating of the year in women 25-54. The numbers began to trend downward, although GH performed better in total viewers than in demographics, which settled into the season’s average lower range.
GH found itself battling bad buzz around the never-ending Nixon Falls storyline, the revelation that Peter was alive, and the seeming rejection of Carly and Jason as a couple. And as the season came to an end, GH looked like it might be in trouble. The appearance that GH was in trouble was made worse by poor numbers the week of Labor Day. A rerun episode included the average sent viewership to near season lows and demographic numbers near series lows, a failure on the network’s part to request it not be counted in advance.
GH Ends 2020-2021 On a High Note, Starts 2021-2022 Higher
In the end, GH ended up surprising everybody during the final week of the season as 2.389 million viewers tuned in. That week Carly and Jason got married; Sonny learned his true identity and remembered, a fire broke out at the Tan-O, and Sonny returned to Port Charles. The result was the best performance for the season’s final week in total viewers since 2018 and nearly tying its numbers from 2017. The soap also increased week-to-week by a huge 438,000 viewers.
The official beginning of the 2021-2022 season saw GH hit it big with the fallout after Carly and Jason’s wedding as well as Sonny’s triumphant return to Port Charles with 2.412 million viewers watching. The soap opera tied its third-best performance in women 25-54 for 2021. The following week, GH tied the second-highest women 18-49 rating for all of 2021. The weeks of 9/13/21, 9/20/21, and 9/27/21 are the three highest-rated weeks of GH in 2021.
|Date||Total Viewers||Women |
Just as GH began to hit these annual highs, trouble began brewing behind the scenes. Disney instituted the vaccine mandate for all of its employees. Social media buzz began growing that Ingo Rademacher, Steve Burton, and a host of other cast members would lose their jobs for not complying. .
As October drew to a close, rumors swirled even more. Actress Nancy Lee Grahn confirmed the vaccination mandate had gone into effect. Ingo Rademacher tweeted an transphobic meme leading to uproar online. The offensive social media post spurred ABC to announce the actor’s departure and last airdate. Nobody from the network including Steve Burton addressed the rumors about his departure. However, the news broke last week that Burton had indeed been let go. The actor followed it up with a self-promoting media blitz framing him as a victim of unfair policies.
Ingo Rademacher has never been a main ratings draw for GH. Plus, Jax’s exit will have little impact on storytelling. Steve Burton will definitely leave a void in the current canvas but to be quite honest, the move frees up resources that GH can use elsewhere. Also you can check out the facts about how Jason Morgan has not boosted but actually hurt GH’s ratings.
Strong Live+7 Day Numbers Are Good News For GH
GH has the highest increase in Live+7 day viewers than any soap on the air. GH has always pulled in the biggest increase in percentage to its audience. Among viewers who watch the show outside the day the episode airs, GH pulls in 14 percent more. GH has seen its numbers in Live+7 day audience grow at a higher rate than last year. GH is also the only soap to be pulling in viewers in Live+7 day viewers at a rate comparable to the years before the pandemic shutdown.
Why is that such a big deal? Well, most viewers don’t traditionally watch television as they have in the past. A good chunk of the audience does not watch GH on ABC or via DVR. Many viewers watch only via On Demand services provided by their cable provider or on streaming services. The success of Days Of Our Lives on NBC’s streaming service Peacock has eclipsed its low ratings as the main factor in its renewal. While the exact numbers are unknown, DAYS went from being on death’s door two years ago when it had much higher ratings to a two-season renewal, a spin-off miniseries, and a holiday movie. All of this has occurred as DAYS hits record lows in key demographics.
If GH is outperforming its peers in Live+7 day viewing, that’s a good indication of how well it performs On Demand and Hulu. Chances are, GH is doing even better as Hulu has far more subscribers than Peacock. The big question: why isn’t ABC/Disney putting in the work to promote GH? Why aren’t the thousands of classic episodes airing on either of the two streaming services that Disney owns? Why doesn’t Disney relaunch SoapNet as a streaming service and enjoy the free revenue it would bring the company?.