Sunday, 20 March 2016

Are soap operas a 'thing of the 90s'?

My media teacher seems to think so. And how wrong he is. A few weeks back I was told to pick three films or television programmes to include in my AS Level case study about how audiences consume and interact with media text types. Naturally, I wanted Coronation Street to be one of those texts that I chose, though he instantly refused it - apparently soap operas are a thing of the past, and that audiences are dropping overnight for each show.

Sadly not my sixth form college. 

In a day when there was only three channels, Coronation Street was able to achieve amazing figures, such as the 27m when Hilda Ogden departed at Christmas 1987. However, since the rise of digital television and on demand services in recent years, highest viewing figures for the show are at about a fourth of what they were back in '87, now at just 6-8m. One thing I don't agree with is though that the popularity has dropped. Those viewing figures do not account for the views on ITV Hub, or the omnibus editions at weekends.

Another thing my teacher said was that the print media are no longer interested in soap operas, though once again I do not agree. If you walk into any newsagents, the magazines and newspapers are adorned with headlines about upcoming storylines or gossip about the cast and crew. Perhaps the storylines aren't as well known amongst non-soap fans whilst they were in the 90s with Deirdre's prison ordeal and the like, but they certainly do make a big enough impression in the press and online.

"Magazines and newspapers are no longer interested in soap operas"
According to my media teacher, the audience demographic for soap operas nowadays is simply old people. Though he did agree that Hollyoaks was aimed at teenagers, he was persistent that the vast majority of viewers for the other soaps were all past retirement age. Oh how wrong he was, again. I enjoy EastEnders and Emmerdale though not as much as Coronation Street, though it's evident through social media that all three of the big soaps have a large fan base built up of pre-teens going all the way up to those who are retired.

Conclusively, I didn't get to pick Corrie as one of my case studies. Not because my media teacher told me I couldn't (I would never let anyone put Corrie down like that - I definitely got my opinion across!) but because I really struggled to find two films released within the past three years that were related to it or that matched the criteria. Eventually, I wormed my way into covering Waterloo Road, Doctor Who and The Inbetweeners Movie. I knew I'd get my way somehow - and atleast he can't accuse them of being stuck in the 90s!

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Ashley said...

I completely disagree that only older people watch soaps now, many young people do, but some younger people don't like to admit it. If you look on twitter, characters like Carla in Corrie and Aaron, Robert and Ross in Emmerdale have massive, sometimes cult like fanbases, and the majority of these fans are young viewers, not people of an older generation.

MichaelAdamsUk said...

Hi Ashley, yes I was going to add something about Nick, Carla, Aaron, Robert and Ross but totally lost that train of thought! Plus I know a whole load of people who watch the soaps with their parents - and like them, though also share the view that it's primarily old people who watch them and refuse to admit it!

Hello Alan, perhaps a bit harsh on your words there but I'm guessing that you believe he's perhaps too engrossed in his work and needs to kick back with a Corrie boxset? Think I'll join him!

And Anon, you are right about including all areas though sadly I was slightly narrow minded when the likes of Star Wars and Game of Thrones were suggested because I haven't the foggiest idea what they're about because they simply don't interest me. I presume its the same with soaps and my media teacher! I just found it a shame that he was unsure about the demographics and how the press are still actively involved (very heavily) with soaps.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it would qualify for your assignment, but "Billy Elliot" would have been a nice tie-in with Corrie.

MartesBC said...

Oh my Michael, I have always looked at Star Wars and especially GOT as a type of soap opera,,, it certainly is serial based story telling with a bit more blood, gore and totalitarianism... Give them a chance sometime from that point of view and you won't be disappointed... Though possibly not as satisfied as with a good Corrie episode. Can only imagine Tyrion coming on and lambasting Tracey in the Rovers over a flagron of wine, lol!

MichaelAdamsUk said...

Hi Anon, sadly Billy Elliott wouldn't be allowed because it's quite an old film.

Hello MartesBC, I could see the positive points for using Star Wars as it includes star power and opportunities that some films don't. It has a huge fanbase too. However, I only felt comfortable writing about something knew. I have tried to watch Star Wars but it's just not my thing. Think I'll stick with the Gail & Eileen Wars.

Flaming Nora said...

Think we need to have a word with your media teacher and put him straight! TV Times cover this week? Coronation Street, again.

Llifon said...

The days of soap haven't come to an end. I think that kind of genre will never disappear. The story of everyday folk is still as popular today as it has always been.

The fact that viewing figures are down compared to the 80s is a poor excuse. Soaps still attract huge figures despite many watching on the web and Sky+. Corrie, and others still attract an average to 7-8m, which, compared to other shows in the same timeslot, is 4-5m more.

Ok, the characters now aren't as memorable as past ones, but you've still got comments like 'that Phelan is a bad one', 'hasn't Carla been through the mill' or 'isn't Sally's husband a character'?. So they must still have appeal, even though people don't admit watching them.

Corrie is as relevant today as it was 30-40 years ago.

So you go on and write about Corrie in your assignment!

abbyk said...

Even though the UK ratings may be lower now, thanks to digital wizardry, good shows gained new audiences and broader impact thanks to international licensing and streaming services that weren't available 10 years ago. If your teacher is only considering what folks watch on their sets over the air or on cable, then yeah, that's older people. However, he is ignoring all the other ways shows reach an audience, and that's skewed towards younger folk (really, who uses twitter, smart tvs and streaming apps? My 78 year old mom? Love her, but she can't figure out how to turn on an iPad).

Have fun with your project. BTW, my sister wrote a term paper on soap opera villainesses for a university class way back before there were VCRs. One of the favorite things she did academically.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with your instructor. Soaps are losing appeal because of social media, which allows people to window gaze at the lives of ordinary people like themselves. We also are in an age of reality TV and celebrity for the sake of celebrity. Hence we are saturated with "shocking" news of this marriage break up and the 'stunning' revelations about so and so's sex life. Basically, all the needs traditionally filled by soaps are being met elsewhere. While Corrie and other Brit soaps may still have a shrunken audience, many long-standing American soaps have met their demise. Some of them had ran for longer than Corrie (despite the oft repeated claim that Corrie is the world's longest running soap). Don't hate, I am just the messenger.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with the teacher. There's no way that, even with online viewing and all the rest of it, soaps get the kind of viewing figures they used to. That is accepted by the TV companies even though the rank highly in the ratings (though not as highly as they once did). The average demographic is also 55+ and again that's accepted. Of course that's just an average - no one would argue that no young people watch soaps, that would be rubbish. Indeed, soap producers work very hard to attract younger audiences because that's what the advertisers want. In terms of magazine coverage, naturally TV magazines cover the soaps but I would argue that daily newspapers do not run as many soap related articles as they used to. But that's not necessarily a bad thing - much of the coverage years ago was tittle tattle about the cast.
Soaps have, in many ways, been replaced by shows such as TOWIE and these attract much stronger young audiences. Sadly.

MichaelAdamsUk said...

Hi Glenda (Flaming Nora)... Definitely think he needs to be put on the right track! Good to see Corrie ruling the roost again.

Hello Llifon, indeed the soaps are still going strong and I think any demise for the big three (EE, Corrie or ED) is a long way off. Especially Corrie - its a British institution! You're right about viewing figures being a poor excuse. The reason they were so big years back was because there wasnt the wide scope of shows there is today. Plus, they didnt have the other mediums to watch them on. I wish I could write about it but sadly there isnt any texts I could link with it.

Hi abbyk, yes you're right that Corrie's older fans are less likely to watch on other media platforms and therefore rely on the television broadcast however I hate having to watch on 'catchup' and would much rather watch at the intended time - that way, the ratings are kept up too!

As for Anon & Anon, I undeestand some of the things you are saying but I disgaree that the average is 55+. It will be much lower. Coronation Street certainly is the longest running soap in the world - that is currently still on air. The one in the states that aired from 1952-2009 (just thinking that off the top of my head) no longer qualifies because it was axed seven years ago. Anon 1 - don't worry, I'm not hating haha. Anon 2 - I agree that a lot of the stories years ago were often libellous and made up of complete and utter rubbish, though it doesnt mean the press arent interested like he suggested. TOWIE and other reality programmes have not replaced soap operas, because they simply are not soap operas, they are forced reality programmes.

Anonymous said...

The idea that reality TV and fake celebrity drivel draws more audiences than Corrie seems very hard to believe. If so, perhaps it indicates a lowering of the population's IQ more than a change in media. Also completely disagree that the average age of a Corrie viewer is 55+. That sounds like a statistic based solely on speculation and stereo-type.

Anonymous said...

Your media teacher seems to be like a lot of my teachers when I was back at college - completely lacking in knowledge of what they're talking about.

Anonymous said...

The following is taken from the ITV pack which is aimed at advertisers:
CORONATION STREET target audience: Housewives with children.
Attracts an average of 9.5m viewers with a 39% share.

looking back to the same document from three years ago it's interesting that it's listed as having an average audience of just over 12m and a share of 50.9%

In 2011 official figures showed that 12.5 % of Corrie's audience were A and B rated viewers and a slightly above average working-class audience of 39 % compared to other soaps on British TV.

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