Last Procter & Gamble-Produced Soap Opera to End

CBS Cancels 'As The World Turns'; P&G Productions Looks for New Outlet

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- CBS today announced it's pulling the plug on "As The World Turns" next year, thus ending a 77-year run of Procter & Gamble Co.-produced soaps -- barring heroic lifesaving efforts by P&G between now and September.

'As The World Turns'
'As The World Turns' Credit: CBS
"ATWT" fell ill, like most of its generation, to poor ratings. It was consistently among the lowest-ranked soaps, particularly after sibling CBS/P&G soap "Guiding Light" ended its run in September.

P&G launched its first soap opera on NBC radio in 1933 -- "Oxydol's Own Ma Perkins." "As The World Turns" began its run on TV in 1956, the same year Oxydol and P&G dropped their sponsorship of that original radio soap. Since then, "ATWT" has helped launch the careers of such actors as Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore and Marisa Tomei.

P&G Productions still is looking for a new home for "ATWT," said spokeswoman Jeannie Tharrington. "It's been so important to our company," she said, "so we're really looking for a new outlet to carry the show. We plan to explore innovative business models, whether that's relationships or innovative production or outlets where we could put the show."

At an average of 2.5 million viewers, "ATWT" is still far bigger than many media properties. But production costs compared to talk shows and other daytime fare increasingly have made it and other soaps an endangered species.

In the end, not even steamy gay sex could save the last P&G soap. The much-watched relationship of characters Luke and Noah created considerable buzz in 2007 and 2008 as fans lamented their lack of on-air kisses, then critics blasted P&G and CBS for letting the gay couple kiss. Ultimately, they broke up.

The end of "ATWT," at least on CBS, doesn't mean the end of P&G Productions.

Its "People's Choice Awards," which airs on CBS in January, will be produced this year by reality maven Mark Burnett, "so we're really breathing some new life into that property," Ms. Tharrington said.

P&G Productions in recent years also has launched consumer websites Petside.com and DinnerTool.com, for pet lovers and meal planning, respectively, in partnership with NBC Universal. PetSide, the older of the properties, now gets around a million unique visitors monthly, according to P&G.

P&G Productions also recently produced webisode series "A Parent Is Born" for Pampers, P&G's biggest global brand, "and we do want to do more content like that for our brands to meet their needs to entertain their audience without overt brand messaging," Ms. Tharrington said.

"We continue to try to figure out what's next in terms of production, so we do have some [more] plans for next year."

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