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Soap Opera Ratings Fall as Daytime TV Ratings Rise

Where Does the Changing Role of Women in the Workforce Fit in?

By Published on . 3

In Monday's issue, Ad Age looked at the decline of soap operas ratings . There were some fascinating demographic data in there about how the changing role of women in the workforce has lead to a death spiral of ratings for this once-dominant genre. Here's a little more data about the evolving workforce.

We wrote:

'Guiding Light'
'Guiding Light' Credit: CBS
In June 1952, as "Guiding Light" debuted on network TV, women represented 31% of the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure stood at about 46.7% as of June 2010. Not only are more women working, more of them are the breadwinners of the household and may not have the time required to watch a five-day-a-week TV program. In 1987, 24% of women earned more than their husbands. In 2006, that figure rose to 33%, according to BLS.

That means that 58.5% of women over age 16 are working now compared to just 34.6% in 1952. That includes 76% of unmarried mothers, and 63.6% of mothers with children under 6 years of age.

All of this led to a cataclysmic 80% drop in viewership -- an average of 6.5 million people tuned in to watch daytime dramas during the 1991-1992 TV season, according to Nielsen. By the 2009-2010 season, that average dropped to 1.3 million.

In the story we suggest some explanations, but we asked Nielsen for a bit more data to help us rule out one cause. It's not that people are watching fewer daytime programs. Overall, viewership is up. In the 1991-1992 season, 14% of people overall were watching daytime TV. That has increased to 16.1% (including DVR playbacks) in the 2009-2010 season. The rise in unemployment certainly means more people are home during the day than we've seen in recent years, and they have a proliferation of other shows and channels to watch.

So why aren't you watching the soaps anymore?

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