Soapnet (stylized as SOAPnet) was an American basic cable and satellite television channel that was owned by the Disney-ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company. The channel previously broadcast current and past soap operas, and prime time dramas. As of August 2013, approximately 66,352,000 American households (58.1% of households with television) received Soapnet.
Due in part to a general decline in the soap opera genre as a whole and the increasing use of video on demand services, Disney announced in 2010 that Soapnet would be replaced by the new preschool-oriented network Disney Junior; however, Soapnet continued to operate alongside Disney Junior following its launch (with some TV providers carrying both). While some providers removed Soapnet upon the launch of Disney Junior, the channel continued to operate on some providers until it finally ceased operations on December 31, 2013 and the last program to air was General Hospital.
Early years (2000–2002)
By the time that Soapnet launched on January 20, 2000, the channel aired only current ABC soap operas in the evening and early morning, so that people who worked during the day could watch them at their convenience; programming was inclusive, as the channel is owned by ABC. Soapnet eventually gained high cable coverage due to Disney's aggressive policy of pulling ABC-owned broadcast stations and the popular ESPN channels from cable providers if they did not agree to carry Soapnet as well; this was the main reason for ABC owned-and-operated station WABC-TV being pulled from Time Warner Cable's New York City system for two days in May 2000, when the provider was originally controlled by Time Warner.
When Soapnet was announced, Sony Pictures Entertainment planned to launch a competing cable channel and website called SoapCity, which would air all of the CBS soap operas and the Sony-owned/produced NBC soap Days of our Lives. The plans for the SoapCity cable channel were abandoned early in 2000 after Sony failed to secure cable carriage, though the website component remained.
Soapnet's inaugural lineup aired current soaps such as All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital, along with canceled daytime and nighttime soaps such as Port Charles, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, The Colbys, Hotel, Sisters and Ryan's Hope. As the years went on, Soapnet tried its hand at original programming, such as Soap Center and Soap Talk, the latter of which was nominated for several Daytime Emmy Awards, most recently in 2006 for Best Talk Show Host(s). Soap Center, which debuted the same day as Soapnet's launch, was initially hosted by former soap stars Brooke Alexander and David Forsyth, they were replaced the following year by Peggy Bunker discussing soaps taped on the East Coast and Tanika Ray discussing West Coast-based soaps. By 2003, Bunker was let go; soon after, the show ceased filming original material.
Other original series included 1 Day With, a half-hour program featuring interviews with soap actors, that was hosted by General Hospital actor Wally Kurth; I Wanna Be a Soap Star, a recurring reality series in which twelve young actors compete for a contract role on a daytime soap; and Soapography, a 30-minute show profiling the lives and current shows of two different soap opera actors.
Programming expansion (2002–2010)
In 2002, Soapnet began airing reruns of Dynasty, and by 2003, the channel added highly requested programming, such as reruns of Another World and Dallas, replacing Falcon Crest, The Colbys, Hotel and Sisters. In 2004, Soapnet acquired the rights to broadcast Days of our Lives episodes on a same-day basis. The channel also aired the 1975 to 1981 episodes of Ryan's Hope, which had not been seen on television since its 1989 cancellation by ABC. At that time, many viewers that did not have Soapnet at its inception petitioned to have the channel broadcast the show from the very beginning. In 2003, the channel aired the first episodes starting on St. Patrick's Day.
In 2004, Soapnet acquired reruns of the short-lived 1980s soap Paper Dolls. In January 2005, the channel began airing reruns of the Fox dramas Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place, this was followed that spring with the addition of repeats of short-lived nighttime soaps The Monroes and Skin. In July 2005, it picked up the Fox primetime soap Pasadena, including nine episodes that were not aired during the show's initial run. In February 2006, Soapnet added its first foreign-made soap, the Channel 4/E4 series Hollyoaks. On March 16, 2006, Soapnet announced that it had acquired the rights to broadcast same-day episodes of The Young and the Restless, which began airing on Soapnet on April 24, 2006 – making it the first CBS network soap to air on the channel.
Since the channel is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, it has also broadcast events from the annual ABC Super Soap Weekend, which was held every November at Walt Disney World, and each summer at Disney's California Adventure until the event was discontinued in 2010. Soap Talk hosts Lisa Rinna and Ty Treadway served as hosts for question and answer sessions at the events, allowing fans to ask questions to their favorite soap stars.
Some viewers complained about what they viewed as an overabundance of primetime programming on the channel, some of which (90210 and Melrose Place) had been ended their original broadcast runs only a few years prior and had been repeated on other networks. These fans also objected to the large amount of new episodes of the ABC lineup and Days of our Lives, and repeatedly requested rebroadcasts of old daytime soaps such as Loving, The Edge of Night, Santa Barbara and Search for Tomorrow.
On February 7, 2007, Soapnet acquired the rights to air reruns of The O.C. and One Tree Hill. The syndication deal also gave Soapnet an option to order a fifth season of One Tree Hill to air on the channel in the event that The CW chose not to renew the show (this option was never exercised as first-run episodes of One Tree Hill remained on The CW until the series ended its run in 2012).
In November 2007, Deborah Blackwell stepped down as general manager of the channel with then-ABC Daytime president Brian Frons assuming her duties. In August 2008, it was revealed that Soapnet had lost the broadcast rights for both Dallas and Melrose Place, both shows left the schedule that September.
In 2009, the channel started to further expand its acquired programming; it began airing Greg Behrendt's Wake Up Call, a program that was originally set to air on ABC during the 2006–07 season. After airing the CBC Television series MVP (which was canceled by the CBC due to low ratings) in 2008, Soapnet also acquired the rights for the American broadcast of the Canadian dramedy Being Erica (which began in January of that year on the CBC) beginning in February 2009. According to Nielsen Media Research, Soapnet was available to 75,259,000 cable and satellite subscribers in December 2010, an increase of 4 million subscribers from May 2009.
Decline and end of operations (2010–2013)
On May 27, 2010, Disney–ABC Television Group announced the launch of Disney Junior, which would replace the Playhouse Disney morning block on sister network Disney Channel in February 2011, and extend to a standalone preschooler-oriented channel that would replace Soapnet in January 2012. Disney-ABC planned to have the Disney Junior channel take over the channel space held by Soapnet due to the channel's low viewership, the soap opera genre's declining popularity on broadcast television (which resulted in the cancellation of several soaps between 2003 and 2011, including ABC's subsequent cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live the following month; both were eventually revived as online soaps in April 2013, but was discontinued after a few months), and the growth of video on demand (including the online streaming availability for soap operas on sites such as the Disney-part-owned Hulu) and digital video recorders that negated the need for a linear channel devoted to the genre.
On July 28, 2011, soap industry sources reported that Soapnet's shutdown date had been moved from January to a non-specific date in late spring 2012, before being rescheduled later that year to February 2012. On January 9, 2012, Disney-ABC announced a definitive shutdown date of March 22, 2012, though it would allow an automated feed of Soapnet to continue operating until carriage contracts for Disney Junior were finalized. On March 1, 2012, it was announced that the network's operations would be taken over by ABC Family following the dismantling of the ABC Daytime corporate structure under Brian Frons, who had resigned in December 2011. Even with the announcement that Soapnet would shut down, the network purchased the rights to broadcast the mystery drama Veronica Mars on March 1, 2012, less than a month before Soapnet was dropped by some cable providers in favor of Disney Junior.
Soapnet was unofficially discontinued on some cable and satellite providers beginning on March 22, 2012, including some Comcast systems. with Disney Junior replacing it in its channel space. Soapnet continued to be carried on providers who had not yet made carriage agreements for Disney Junior (such as Dish Network); as well as for certain providers that retained Soapnet as part of their channel lineups, while also adding Disney Junior as an additional channel (such as Cablevision, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and RCN). Same day rebroadcasts of General Hospital, Days of our Lives and The Young and the Restless were retained, with repeats of ABC Family programming and reruns of Veronica Mars being added to the schedule. The rights to Veronica Mars were transferred to Pivot when that network launched in August 2013.
On January 15, 2013, AT&T U-verse reached a new wide-ranging multi-year carriage agreement with Disney for its various broadcast and cable channels, which included the addition of Disney Junior. In April 2013, Soapnet lost the rights to same-day broadcasts of The Young and the Restless to TVGN (which CBS Corporation, owner of the show's originating broadcaster CBS, had acquired a 50% ownership stake in the previous month), effective July 1. TVGN eventually picked up The Bold and the Beautiful after Soapnet ended, a soap never carried by the network, and both are now carried in high definition on TVGN's HD simulcast network.
In November 2013, Disney eventually announced that Soapnet would shut down forever on December 31, 2013. The network's impending discontinuation had been previously reported by several cable providers, including AT&T U-verse, Comcast, Charter and Cox.
The network permanently discontinued and ceased operations on all providers at 11:59 p.m. on December 31, a minute before the new year of 2014 due to contractual language. Before that earlier in the day, Soapnet's website was redirected to the General Hospital section of the ABC website, telling more ways to watch it.
- Main article: List of programs broadcast by Soapnet
Prior to the switch to an automated schedule, repeats of current soap operas made up the majority of Soapnet's daily schedule, the channel usually aired daily airings of network soaps it had carried (the previous weekday's broadcasts airing weekday mornings from 6:00 to 11:00 a.m. ET, along with two same-day evening airings with one block from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. ET and a repeat of the earlier block from 12:00 to 5:00 a.m. ET). With the reduction to two first-run soaps on the schedule, from July 2013 up until Soapnet's cease in production, the timeslots in which same-day/day-behind repeats of the network soaps were reduced, with the two remaining first-run soaps airing on the channel – Days of our Lives and General Hospital – airing in repeat blocks from 7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. ET.
Prior to ABC's cancellations of the former two series in 2011, daily reruns of All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital aired on the channel in that respective order as they had aired on ABC's daytime schedule. All My Children had the most airings on the channel airing four times each weekday, one in the morning and three at night. Rebroadcasts of each soap's episodes for the entire week aired each Saturday and Sunday during the late afternoon and nighttime hours; as of 2012, the network has aired the past week's episodes of Days of our Lives in Sunday primetime.
Due to it being owned by The Walt Disney Company, which also owns ABC, Soapnet cross-promoted All My Children and One Life to Live using the tagline "weekdays on ABC and weeknights on SOAPnet" when both shows aired on ABC. The same slogan continued to be used in promotions for General Hospital until the week of April 30, 2012 (inclusively). After a three-month hiatus, the "weekdays on ABC and weeknights on SOAPnet" slogan was revived in August 2012, but was used only for General Hospital promos airing on Soapnet and not those seen on ABC. References to Days of our Lives's first-run airings on NBC (and until it was dropped from Soapnet in July 2013, The Young and the Restless's first-run airings on CBS) are not included in the channel's promos, instead only advertising their telecasts on Soapnet.
The channel also aired primetime drama series such as One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls and Beverly Hills, 90210 each weekday during the late morning and afternoon hours, and as part of the "Breakfast in Bed" block between 6:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. ET each weekend.
During the course of its lifetime, the channel occasionally aired past episodes in thematic format, such as Daytime's Most Unforgettable Weddings, spotlighting the best episodes of popular couples on ABC's soaps. Other thematic episode blocks included the "Sonnylicious!" marathon, featuring select episodes highlighting Maurice Benard's best performances as his General Hospital character Sonny Corinthos, and the "Tad the Cad" marathon, with classic 1980s episodes of All My Children involving the Michael E. Knight character of Tad Martin's romantic trysts with Liza Colby and her mother, Marian. These kinds of marathons were usually limited to series to which Soapnet has the rebroadcast rights (ABC's soaps, Days of our Lives and previously, The Young and the Restless). However in a lead-up to the 33rd Daytime Emmy Awards, the channel showed episodes of soaps that showcased performances that garnered award-nominating attention – including those from Guiding Light and As the World Turns – a first for the channel. Also, during its 13-year existence, the channel aired marathons of its acquired programs; such as on September 3, 2007, when it aired a marathon of The O.C. called "Summer Spice", showcasting the metamorphosis of Summer Roberts (played by Rachel Bilson) throughout the series.
Original dramatic programming
The network only aired one dramatic series produced exclusively for the network, a prime-time spin-off of General Hospital entitled General Hospital: Night Shift, which aired for two seasons from July 2007 to October 2008.
In late 2008, the network entered into a distribution agreement with Sony Pictures Television to air a package of recent films from the studio's library and some archived content on weekend evenings, along with several 20th Century Fox films and some in ABC and ABC Family's telefilm archive aimed at the network's target audience. The network discontinued airing films on April 30, 2011 as the network's operations began to wind down, with much of its film library migrating to Lifetime Movie Network (which is owned in part by Disney through A+E Networks).
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- James, Meg (November 9, 2013). "Disney's SOAPnet channel headed for the drain". Retrieved on November 10, 2013.
- What is happening to SOAPnet broadcast?
- Entertainment ABC to return to Time Warner Cable CNN, May 3, 2000
- "O.C", "Tree" Head to Soapnet, Variety.com, February 7, 2007
- Preschool programs replace Soapnet, The New York Times, May 27, 2010.
- Soapnet will go dark to make way for Disney Junior, Entertainment Weekly, May 26, 2010.
- Soapnet to stay on the air longer into the New Year!, Michael Fairman Soaps, July 28, 2011
- Gerds, Warren. "Warren Gerds column: Network specials take on Titanic for anniversary." Green Bay Press-Gazette 02 April 2012. Web. 19 April 2012.
- Schneider, Michael (January 9, 2012). "Disney Junior to replace Soapnet in March". Retrieved on January 9, 2012.
- Villarreal, Yvonne. "Show Tracker: What You're Watching — Disney Junior 24/7 channel launches Friday." Los Angeles Times Blog 22 March 2012. Web. 19 April 2012.
- "Update on Soapnet". ABC Soaps In Depth (March 1, 2012). Retrieved on March 2, 2012.
- Farrell, Mike (January 15, 2013). "Disney Strikes U-Verse Carriage Deal". Retrieved on January 15, 2013.
- O'Connell, Michael (April 3, 2013). "'The Young and the Restless' Moves From Soapnet to TV Guide Network". Retrieved on June 28, 2013.
- Bibel, Sara (June 10, 2013). "'The Young & the Restless' Moves to TVGN for Exclusive Basic Cable Airings Beginning Monday, July 1". Retrieved on June 28, 2013.
- "Upcoming Contract Renewals". Retrieved on October 13, 2013.
- "Channel Lineup Changes - Charter Communications". Retrieved on October 27, 2013.
- "U-verse Programming Changes". Retrieved on October 16, 2013.
- "CBS Soaps In Depth" May 20, 2013
- "Breaking News - Soapnet Acquires a Package of 19 Movies from Sony Pictures Television, Inc. for its Sunday Night Movies Franchise". The Futon Critic (December 15, 2008).
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