When the Daytime Emmy nominations were announced recently, CBS led the pack with 57 nominations, and nobody at the Tiffany network was prouder than Barbara Bloom, senior VP of daytime programs. At the helm of the network’s daytime lineup, Ms. Bloom has led CBS to both critical and ratings success, with “The Young and the Restless” maintaining a 20-year reign as the No. 1-rated soap on daytime. In anticipation of the Emmys, TelevisionWeek correspondent Allison J. Waldman spoke with Ms. Bloom about her expectations for the Daytime Emmys and the future of CBS daytime.
TelevisionWeek: When the Daytime Emmy nominations were announced, CBS was the front-runner with 57 nominations. What was your reaction?
Barbara Bloom: Well, I’m very pleased for the shows. I’m very proud of all the shows. It’s always terrific when you work with a talented group of people and see them garner recognition from their peers for their work. And I know how hard they work. But I’m a firm believer that this daypart is fraught with exceptionally talented people across all of the networks. So the nominations are great recognition, but in my eyes it doesn’t make the people who didn’t get nominated any less valuable.
TVWeek: What do you think about “Guiding Light” receiving 17 nominations in the same year it’s celebrating its 70th anniversary on the air?
Ms. Bloom: I’m a huge fan of Ellen Wheeler, executive producer, and David Kreizman, head writer. I think they’re an extraordinarily creative team and they work exceptionally well together. At the core of what they do is a passionate understanding of storytelling and character. They are exceptionally character-driven. They are extraordinarily respectful of their fans. They are constantly challenging themselves in many ways to reach out and engage their fans, which I think is exemplified particularly this year, not only the stories that they tell, but in their [online] Find Your Light campaign, where they’re really reaching out to their audience. It is so moving when you go on their Web site and you see the postings that their fans have left about what their own light is. It’s been an exceptional journey for the show to take that on, and to celebrate their 70th year by basically celebrating their relationship with their audience is really, I think, a snapshot into who Ellen and David are.
TVWeek: In your experience in the business, can you imagine another show exceeding 70 years on the air?
Ms. Bloom: The reality is that television has changed so radically in the last 10 to 15 years, and the way people deliver and the way people view entertainment content, and the way they incorporate it into their lives has changed so much, that I think we’re looking at a different universe. But can you imagine that a story would last 70 years? This story has lasted a long time. Think of your own life and stories that you tell that your grandmother told you. So at the core of “Guiding Light” is what Irna Phillips built, and that was an engaging world with stories that people related to. As a storyteller, I don’t find it unimaginable that the power of a story can exist for generations.
TVWeek: And yet there’s no question that television has changed in terms of delivery and holding onto viewers is a challenge, isn’t it?
Ms. Bloom: As a broadcaster, the challenge that I face every day — and that our teams face — is keeping that story on the cusp of delivery. It’s not that the stories aren’t relevant, it’s are we making sure that they’re getting to the audience and that the audience is able to access them in the most meaningful way for them. The way television is used in their lives has changed dramatically. When “Guiding Light” started, people sat around a radio in their homes. When I was a kid, we had four channels and a TV in our living room. Now you can have a TV on your cell phone. The way media is delivered to you is so franchised, and the number of availabilities and the number of things to look at are so huge, that the challenge becomes how to speak to the largest audience possible.
TVWeek: How do you do that in the very competitive daytime schedule where the Nielsens show that soap ratings are down?
Ms. Bloom: I think when you look at daytime’s numbers and see that they are diminished over the years, you have to compare them across the spectrum of programming available to you. The soaps still deliver a large body of people.
TVWeek: What do you tell naysayers who think soap operas are dead and should be removed from daytime entirely?
Ms. Bloom: I say the same thing that I said to you right now. You cannot negate the relevance of our audience’s engagement to this product. You have to look at the business model and say, “Is the business model we’re using to deliver this product the best we have?” Yes, it is a competitive time for television. We have to reach a broader audience and be more efficient in reaching that audience. We have to have additional ways to access our shows and get our audiences more engaged, which is what Ellen has done with Find Your Light, or the podcasting that we have on our Web sites. The digital stories that we’re doing on InnerTube, or the books that Simon & Schuster are doing. Those are all ways of encompassing. But at the core of the relevance, the emotional relevance that the stories have to the viewers’ life, at the heart of that is still a value, and you can’t just say a number of millions of people watch every week and so it doesn’t work anymore. You have to say, these people are still watching every week and how do we make this work better?
TVWeek: Is CBS interested in using a cable outlet to repurpose daily episodes of “Guiding Light,” “As the World Turns” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” like the soaps that are re-aired on SoapNet?
Ms. Bloom: I’m really not at liberty to discuss what our future plans are. I don’t think we’re going to be launching a cable channel, but we are looking at ways to distribute our content in a meaningful way. “The Young and the Restless” is on SoapNet, but they made their own deal with them. We’re always looking for other opportunities internally to keep the shows out, but I don’t have a plan in particular that I can spell out for you.
TVWeek: “As the World Turns” did very well in the Daytime Emmy nominations, especially in the younger actor categories, and all your soaps are injecting younger stars into the mix.
Ms. Bloom: We don’t look at it as an injection of youth. What we — myself, my programming department and the corresponding producers and writers — talk about are the evolution of these shows. When we’re looking at shows that have been on the air for as long as these shows have, we’re always looking at keeping the core of the generation going, and what the next levels of the generations are. I think that “As the World Turns” did a really nice job expanding the Hughes generation, expanding the Snyders, moving people along and introducing a couple of new characters. It’s a terrifically talented group of young actors on “As the World Turns.” They had some great storylines this year that showcased their talents.
TVWeek: “The Young and the Restless” continues to dominate the soap ratings with veteran stars like Eric Braeden and Jeanne Cooper.
Ms. Bloom: Yes, right. The balance is finding a story that continues to support and deliver those actors, and finding stories that expand their universe and is able to include their characters. I think we have on that show, too, the addition of Michael Graziadei (Daniel), Cristel Khalil (Lily), Bryton McClure (Devon), and then even expanding the Abbott family with the Fishers and tying them in to Michael Baldwin — these are all strategic ways to give longstanding characters like Michael a mother and a brother and the family around it, then you connect it to the Abbotts, you can flesh out a story in a great way. It gives the actors and the characters that are mo
st beloved a chance to work differently. It’s the same way with the Newmans and all the others. When you look at that show, you’ll see that it’s a very tightly, carefully woven canvas of characters.
TVWeek: “The Bold and the Beautiful” is the only 30-minute soap still on the air. Is there any thought of expanding it to one hour?
Ms. Bloom: A half-hour does really well for them. Bradley Bell and his team are masters of maximizing the use of their time.
TVWeek: Your lineup is doing so well, I have to wonder, do you contemplate any changes in the future?
Ms. Bloom: Television is an evolving, living medium, and one of the things I’m most proud of is the teams on the CBS shows. The dialogue about where to go next, how to evolve and the evolution never stops. We never stop talking about who the characters are, we never stop talking about what we see when we turn on the screen. I speak weekly to some people, I speak daily to some people, my door is always open for that. We do speak very openly about things they’d like to try. There’s a lot of engaging conversations that go on. It’s an extraordinarily talented group of people and they never stop challenging themselves. I’m really proud of them for that. It’s a bear, what they do. It’s a bear what all the executive producers and writers in this form do. It’s said so often that it’s a cliche, but the truth of it is not a cliche. This is a huge task to put out this amount of programming in a year and to keep it engaging and involving, and to really know your players. To really play to your strengths; to really be able to create a story that takes “Guiding Light’s” Kim Zimmer and [“The Young and the Restless'”] Robert Newman and [“The Bold and the Beautiful’s”] Nicole Forrester into another dimension. To look at characters that have been on a show for a long time and new characters and really involve them in a way where the audience feels such an emotional connection to their journey. There isn’t a time when I can sit in a room with any of the teams on these shows that they aren’t thinking about something or planning something or hatching something or turning it over or evaluating what is our promise to the audience.
TVWeek: Are you satisfied with the Daytime Emmy nomination process?
Ms. Bloom: It’s like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. I don’t know any way to make a perfect system because we work in a medium that generates so much good work. I don’t know how you can look across-the-board at all of these shows and their 250 original episodes and boil it down to this system. The history of the process has long been a challenge and will continue to be. It’s at odds with the form itself.
TVWeek: What are your expectations for the Daytime Emmys?
Ms. Bloom: We’ll win some, we’ll lose some. CBS will definitely win in the lead actress category because we have all four nominations, so that’s a relief. Look, I’m hoping that we will put on an engaging Emmys that honors the shows and will satisfy fans across the networks. I hope everyone will enjoy watching it. I wish I could say I want this to win or that, but, honestly, it’s like picking between your children. For all the people that are on here, there are people who were not nominated and that doesn’t make what they did any less valuable. I’m thrilled to be there to celebrate with my teams and to celebrate the individuality of each of them and individuality of each of these talents honored. I hope that it will be a very positive night that reflects the audience’s longstanding engagement with this form. ?