|Launched||January 3, 2000|
|Closed||December 31, 2013|
|Owned by||Disney–ABC Television Group
(The Walt Disney Company)
|Slogan||Home of Telenovelas|
|Broadcast area||United States|
|Replaced by||Disney Junior (some cable providers)|
The network's programming was oriented towards the soap opera genre; on launch, Soapnet carried primetime encores of ABC's current soaps, as well as reruns of classic daytime and primetime soap opera series. Soapnet also broadcast programming related to soap operas, including news and behind the scenes programs. In later years, Soapnet increased its focus on acquired reruns of drama series.
Due in part to a general decline in the soap opera genre as a whole, and the need for primetime encores of current soaps unnecessary due to the growing adoption of digital video recorders, Disney announced in 2010 that Soapnet would be replaced by the new preschool-oriented network Disney Junior; however, Soapnet continued to operate following the launch of Disney Junior (with some TV providers carrying both). In November 2013, Disney eventually confirmed that Soapnet would be discontinued after December 31, 2013. The network ceased operations a minute before midnight the same day.
Early years (2000–02)
When Soapnet launched on January 20, 2000, the channel aired only current ABC soap operas in the evening and early morning, so that people who were at work or school during the day could watch them at their convenience. Programming was inclusive, as the channel was owned by ABC. Soapnet eventually gained high cable carriage 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 Soapnet was announced, Sony Pictures Entertainment planned to launch a competing cable channel and website called SoapCity, which would air all 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 introduced 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 on Soapnet's launch day schedule, 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 (2002–10)
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 who 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 was a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, it 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 prime-time programming on the channel, some of which (90210 and Melrose Place) had ended their original broadcast runs only a few years prior and had been repeated in syndication 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 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; and 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 wind-down of operations (2010–13)
The decline of the dependence of networks on the soap opera genre with the replacement of less expensive talk show and game show programming, 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 discontinued after a few months due to production and licensing conflicts), and growing adoption of digital video recorders (which made it more convenient to record multiple soaps), negated the need for a linear channel devoted to the genre.
Disney–ABC Television Group head Anne Sweeney solicited pitches for a new concept to replace Soapnet; ABC Daytime pitched two proposals, one under the working title "Carrie" (in reference to Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City), which was intended to be a "hip and cool" channel targeted at women, and "Disney Moms", which would have featured "[programs] moms would want to watch and their families would watch with them". The staff of Disney Channel also pitched a replacement, the preschool-oriented Disney Junior—which won the approval of Sweeny, much to the dismay of the ABC Daytime staff.
On May 26, 2010, Disney Junior was officially announced as Disney's new preschool-oriented television brand. Replacing Playhouse Disney, Disney Junior would launch as a block on Disney Channel in February 2011, and was to launch a standalone channel to replace SoapNet in January 2012. However, due to issues in reaching carriage deals for the new network, the launch of the Disney Junior channel was delayed from January to an unspecified date in early-2012. Disney Junior's launch date was eventually set to March 23, 2012. However, Disney also stated that SoapNet would "continue to have wide distribution for some time with many distributors choosing to carry both networks until such date as SoapNet fully sunsets". The Los Angeles Times stated that some television providers had been hesitant to immediately drop Soapnet, as they "didn't want to risk legions of vocal soap opera fans getting into a lather, or worse, moving to a rival service."
On March 1, 2012, the network's operations were taken over by Freeform following the dismantling of the ABC Daytime corporate structure under Brian Frons, who had resigned in December 2011. 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, RCN. and Time Warner Cable). 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/Pop (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 Pop's HD simulcast network, along with eventually, Days of Our Lives.
In November 2013, Disney announced that Soapnet would sign off after 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.
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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 episodes 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 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) were 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. Weekend morning marathons of ABC's cooking show The Chew (which had replaced All My Children on ABC) aired for a short time in December 2012 before being quickly dropped due to negative viewer reaction.
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 Freeform'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).
.com address and telephone number for Soapnet headquarters in Burbank, California at the Walt Disney Studios
- What is happening to SOAPnet broadcast?
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- "O.C", "Tree" Head to Soapnet, Variety.com, February 7, 2007
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