In Depth

CBS Will Turn Off ‘Light’ in September

After 72 years and nearly 16,000 episodes, “Guiding Light” will end its network run on Friday, Sept. 18, CBS announced Wednesday.

The show’s death on CBS had become apparent after word emerged that the network was actively deciding on its replacement, as TelevisionWeek reported exclusively Sunday.

“Light” is the lowest-rated of the eight network soaps still on the air. Its ratings have fallen 25% in the past year following a radical change in production model designed to make the series more cost-effective.

Procter & Gamble, which produces the show, is not giving up on “Light,” however. The company said it will explore other possibilities for keeping the show alive. An online version and a cable network are both possibilities.

"We are working hard to find the show a new home, and we are exploring all our options to continue to bring loyal fans the characters and stories they love," said Brian T. Cahill, senior VP and managing director of TeleNext Media, the P&G unit that produces "Light" and "As the World Turns."

CBS executives, however, are moving on and the network is actively considering several possible replacements.

In the meantime, CBS brass paid tribute to “Light” with kind words.

“‘Guiding Light’ has achieved a piece of television history that will never be matched; it has crossed mediums, adapted its stories to decades of social change and woven its way through generations of audiences like no other,” said Nancy Tellem, president, CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group. “This daytime icon will always be an indelible part of CBS’ history, with a legacy of innovation and reputation for quality and excellence at every step of the way. While its presence will be missed, its contributions will always be celebrated and never be forgotten.”

Barbara Bloom, head of daytime for CBS, added, “No show in daytime or primetime, or any time, has touched so many millions of viewers across so many years.”

In the end, however, the financials for “Light” just didn’t make sense for CBS. Despite being much cheaper to produce than several other high-profile soaps, the license fee for a scripted drama is still much higher than for a game show or talk show—the two most likely candidates to replace “Light.”

Given the viewer erosion for all daytime dramas, as well as the tough economy, CBS executives were hard-pressed to justify continuing the show, despite the strong pull of tradition at the network.

“Light” began life on Jan. 25, 1937, as an NBC radio serial called “The Guiding Light.” It moved to TV—and CBS—on June 30, 1952, airing on both radio and TV until 1956, when the radio broadcast ceased.

The series, set in the fictional town of Springfield, was created by Irna Phillips. It has been awarded 69 Daytime Emmys.

Ellen Wheeler, executive producer of "Light," said it will be tough to call it quits at CBS.

“Being on the air for more than seven decades is truly remarkable, and it will be difficult for all of us at the show to say goodbye,” Ms. Wheeler said. “I’m proud of everything we’ve been able to do, including outstanding storytelling, our community service around the country with Find Your Light and the launch of our new production model. This show has such a rich history, wonderful fans, and I’m honored to have been a part of the 'GL' legacy.”