SoapNet eager to grow

Jan 28, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Cable’s SoapNet is bubbling with programming and multiplexing plans, including one for a Spanish-language soap-opera network that might be called TelenovelaNet.
“We think it’s a natural for us,” said Deborah Blackwell, the network’s general manager. The network, part of the ABC Cable Networks Group, currently features same-day repeats of the ABC daytime soap schedule, but it expects to close deals with the other broadcast networks to bring their daytime soaps to its prime time too.
“Our goal is to carry current soaps from all networks,” Ms. Blackwell said. “Our goal is to launch [at least one soap from either CBS or NBC] this fall.”
SoapNet also is looking to proliferate itself, not only with a network aimed at the growing Spanish-speaking TV audience but with a second network for its burgeoning schedule of prime-time soaps and such ’80s-era prime-time hits as “Falcon Crest” and “Knots Landing.” “We’ll need to go to a SoapNet 2 just to have enough prime time to run the episodes of all [the soap operas]. Maybe SoapNet 3 will be a Spanish version,” Ms. Blackwell said.
When it happens “will depend on how quickly we grow,” she said.
SoapNet also plans to increase the amount of its original programming, planning a soap-centered talk show and a soap-themed game show, a la “Soap Jeopardy.” The network’s programming plans do not include launching its own continuing narrative drama.

“It will be reality,” Ms. Blackwell said. “My belief is that our viewers are hungry for the kind of information about their stars that they see on E! and `The Tonight Show.’ In our society we explore the world of celebrity pretty thoroughly, but we don’t see the soap stars showing up throughout the talk show world.”
For its daytime daypart, the network also is considering acquiring English-language soaps from Great Britain and other English-speaking countries. “We’re also looking at some classic soaps” on the model of the successful revival of ABC’s “Ryan’s Hope,” she said.
On Feb. 4, the network, which reaches 20 million homes, will launch a second feed for the West Coast. Beginning then its day-and-date-repurposed ABC soaps will air three hours earlier, starting at 4:30 p.m. on both coasts, to target the teen audience.
Launched just two years ago, SoapNet only began selling advertising this past Sept. 24. The network’s audience is primarily female. Women 18-plus comprise approximately 75 percent of the viewers; men are around 16 percent; and kids 2 to 17 make up 9 percent. The median age of a prime-time viewer is around 44.
Traditional daytime advertisers are already tuned in to SoapNet’s message, said Ms. Blackwell, who had projected an initial 50 percent sellout rate for the network’s ad inventory. “Instead, what happened is that it took us about three weeks to get up to the 95 percent sold-out rank,” she said, “and we’ve been there the whole rest of the time.”
SoapNet has 121 advertisers, including national advertisers such as Pfizer; Johnson & Johnson, which is sponsoring “SoapNet’s Biggest Heartbreaks,” the network’s Valentine’s Day love-gone-wrong marathon; and J.C. Penney, which sponsors “This Week in Soap History,” a one-minute segment on “SoapCenter,” SoapNet’s original magazine show, Ms. Blackwell said.