In this day and age of declining ratings and tightening budgets, how can the once prominent and profitable soaps stay alive? Believe it or not there is a chance for the ailing genre to make a huge comeback, as the sitcom did back in the 80's with The Cosby Show, Cheers ect.
Carolyn Hinsey in her "It's Only My Opinion" column for Soap Opera Digest often chides soaps for filling the screen up with "strangers" and not playing them with "beloved characters." She does have a point, many fans have watched the shows for years and have an attachment for the veteran characters. Instead of hiring 10 "newbies", invest the money in a beloved actor and give that actor a significant story to back up the investment.
Speaking of veteran characters and actors, once they sign on the dotted line or agree to come back. Daytime superstar Eden Riegel left the role of Bianca on All My Children to play other roles, however she came back for short arcs every year since her 2005 exit. This year that won't be the case because former head writing teams was "losing" who Bianca was. At the end of the day the popular actress decided not to come back to the show that made her a star and went to The Young and The Restless where she can create a character. AMC now plans to recast the role, which has angered many fans. Instead of wasting the money to recast that character, lure the ever popular Cady McClain back to the show as beloved heroin Dixie Martin and put her in the center of several ongoing storylines. This will help fans forget that Eden isn't availible to reprise the iconic role of Bianca and fix a major, if not the biggest storyline mistake in the shows history.
Because of the massive lay offs that occur on the soaps, many have made the mistake of killing off beloved characters. AMC did this by having Dixie eat poisoned pancakes, meant for a rather unpopular character, who it should be added the actress playing the hated character was leaving. The result was a huge ratings drop off, interestingly Cady has made several short term returns and the ratings have spiked. Bring her back, if the show runs over budget there are several characters not clicking that can be fired and nobody would care. Once again put her in a large storyline and have her intersect with every character whose life she has touched, fans will suspend disbelief if it brings back a favorite.
If lining the coffers becomes a problem because of DVR and increased competition from cable, do what soaps used to do, product placement. Instead of Erica Kane and Greenlee Smythe using "computers" at FUSION why not make a deal with Dell or Apple to showcase the divas using their computers. Or instead of inventing restaurants why not use a real life one, Have Marissa and Annie set up a play date at McDonalds for respective off spring. Have characters drink a Pepsi (Diet for the ladies) or Coke instead of "Soda" Last spring AMC had New York Company dress the woman of the show, which reduced the clothing budget for the show and was an inventive way to bring that brand into the mainstream media.
The end is not near for this beloved genre, the powers that are in charge though need to think outside of the box to bring in new and lapsed viewers. They also need to use the resources in their power to make these shows the cash cows they once were