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From re-runs of soap classics “Dallas,” “Dynasty,” “Another World,” “Port Charles,” and “Falcon Crest,” to the launches of original series “SoapCenter,” “Soap Talk” and “General Hospital: Night Shift,” SOAPnet was defined as the “new way to watch soaps” for much of its near 14-year run. With just 2 days left before SOAPnet is no more, we thought it would be a great opportunity to look back at the inaugural year of a network that gave diehard soap fans their own platform to shout with glee through the death of a network that outlived its purpose.

SOAPnet
SOAPnet

Launched in January 2000, The Walt Disney Company ushered in a new kind of cable network catered towards soap opera fans just as ESPN is to the diehard sports fans. The network began its journey with same-day airings of ABC’s “All My Children,” “General Hospital,” “One Life to Live” and “Port Charles.” Additional series airing in its inaugural year included re-runs of “Ryan’s Hope,” “Sisters,” “The Colbys,” “Hotel,” “Knots Landing,” and “Falcon Crest.” In its efforts to capitalize on ESPN’s popular “SportsCenter” brand, SOAPnet launched “SoapCenter,” hosted by former soap stars David Forsyth (ex-John Hudson, “Another World”; ex-Jim Thomasen, “All My Children”) and Brooke Alexander (ex-Samantha Markham, “As The World Turns”), which brought viewers inside the world of soaps like never before. The series aired Fridays at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT. Such segments included a behind the scenes look on the set of the daytime soaps, soap star fashion, and a sneak peek at what’s happening next on your favorite shows. Both Forsyth and Alexander were let go after the network made changes to the series format in 2001. They were replaced by TV personalities Peggy Bunker and Tanika Ray, who would later take on solo hosting duties when SOAPnet wanted to E! up the program. “SoapCenter” was officially canceled and ceased airing in 2004.

A sample SOAPnet schedule from 2000:

ETPTMondayTuesday-ThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
6:00am3:00amRyan’s HopeSisters
6:30am3:30amRyan’s Hope
7:00am4:00amSoapCenterFlashback: Port CharlesSoapCenterHotel
7:30am4:30amPort Charles (Yesterday)
8:00am5:00amAll My Children (Yesterday)The ColbysRyan’s Hope-Athon Monday-Friday Episodes
8:30am5:30am
9:00am6:00amOne Life to Live (Yesterday)The Colbys
9:30am6:30am
10:00am7:00amGeneral Hospital (Yesterday)The Colbys
10:30am7:30am
11:00am8:00amRyan’s HopeSoapCenter
11:30am8:30amRyan’s HopePC (Yesterday)
12:00pm9:00amFalcon CrestAMC (Yesterday)
12:30pm9:30amSoapCenter
1:00pm10:00amKnots LandingOLTL (Yesterday)Last Week at One Life to Live Monday-Friday Episodes
1:30pm10:30am
2:00pm11:00amHotelGH (Yesterday)
2:30pm11:30am
3:00pm12:00pmSistersSoapCenter
3:30pm12:30pm
4:00pm1:00pmFalcon CrestLast Week at Port Charles Monday-Friday Episodes
4:30pm1:30pm
5:00pm2:00pmKnots Landing
5:30pm2:30pm
6:00pm3:00pmRyan’s HopeSoapCenter
6:30pm3:30pmRyan’s HopeLast Week at General Hospital Monday-Friday EpisodesLast Week at All My Children Monday-Friday Episodes
7:00pm4:00pmSoapCenterFlashback: Port CharlesSoapCenter (premiere)
7:30pm4:30pmPort Charles (Today)
8:00pm5:00pmAll My Children (Today)
8:30pm5:30pm
9:00pm6:00pmOne Life to Live (Today)
9:30pm6:30pm
10:00pm7:00pmGeneral Hospital (Today)
10:30pm7:30pm
11:00pm8:00pmSoapCenterFlashback: Port CharlesSoapCenter
11:30pm8:30pmPort Charles (Today)SoapCenter
12:00am9:00pmAll My Children (Today)Ryan’s Hope-Athon Monday-Friday Episodes
(1975)
Last Week at Knots Landing Monday-Friday Episodes
12:30am9:30pm
1:00am10:00pmOne Life to Live (Today)
1:30am10:30pm
2:00am11:00pmGeneral Hospital (Today)
2:30am11:30pm
3:00am12:00amSisters
3:30am12:30am
4:00am1:00amFalcon Crest
4:30am1:30amSoapCenter
5:00am2:00amKnots LandingHotel

While the network was not initially as widely available as Disney probably would have liked, the company utilized its carriage dispute with Time Warner Cable in May 2000 over rights fees for its ABC Owned and Operated Stations, specifically New York’s WABC, to help persuade the cable provider and others to begin carrying the soap dedicated network. After reaching an agreement with Time Warner, satellite provider DirecTV also announced it too would provide the network to its millions of subscribers.

The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company
Bob D'Amico/ABC
Bob D’Amico/ABC

In an October 4, 2000 interview with Elizabeth Glass for the program, “Hauser Project,” Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, noted that the network “was born out of the fact that soap operas are still a very healthy genre but suffering from a lifestyle change with its core viewers and we took this idea of really making it easier for people to access the shows that they love out into a test situation and we tested two different formats for the channel and very quickly learned which one would work, and then did a great amount of homework with this group of people who would be watching soaps later the same day on what additional needs they had. What else did they want; what else did they want to know? And that’s how we slowly put together the pieces that became Soap Net.”

On announcing the end of SOAPnet on May 26, 2010, Sweeney said, “SOAPnet was created in 2000 to give daytime viewers the ability to watch time-shifted soaps, before multiplatform viewing and DVRs were part of our vocabulary. But today, as technology and our businesses evolve, it makes more sense to align this distribution with a preschool channel that builds on the core strengths of our company.” The preschool channel she refers is Disney Junior.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

In an interview with Soap Opera Digest shortly after it was announced that SOAPnet would meet its maker, former president, daytime, Disney/ABC Television Group, Brian Frons, said “They shouldn’t be worried,” in regards to whether fans of the ABC soaps should be concerned about the futures of “AMC,” “GH” and “OLTL.” He added, “Over the years, Disney has made a lot of commitment to the Disney brand. As they looked out in the marketplace, they really felt they needed to be in the preschool space with a full-branded channel. Given the way technology has gone, where you can DVR your soap, watch it on Hulu and abc.com, it was felt that the original purpose of SOAPnet — today’s soaps tonight — could sort of be fulfilled in different ways. Frankly, financially it will be better for us, because if you watch on daytime, we actually make more money than if the same person watches on SOAPnet, just because rates are that different between the network world and the cable world.”

As soap fans recall, the ABC version of “AMC” went off the air in September 2011, and the ABC version of “OLTL” departed in January 2012, following the network’s decision to pull the plug on two of its least watched daytime programs, which at the time were hitting record low ratings in the key sales demographics, according to Nielsen Media Research ratings data.

Disney/ABC Television Group
Disney/ABC Television Group

The ABC Cable Networks Group, a division of Disney/ABC Television Group, informed cable and satellite operators across the United States that they will cease operating SOAPnet, which currently airs same day episodes of “Days of our Lives” and “General Hospital” at night along with its off-network airing rights to such shows as “Veronica Mars,” “Beverly Hills,90210,” “Gilmore Girls,” “One Tree Hill” and more, effective Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 11:59:59 PM EST. Despite SOAPnet’s reported replacement, Disney Junior, already operating since 2012 on several providers across the country, the kids friendly network will officially replace the women’s network at 12:00:00 AM EST on January 1, 2014.

Noting that the network had a great run, Ben Pyne, president of global distribution for Disney Media Networks, told the Los Angeles Times, “It served an audience of super-soap fans. And when given the opportunity, all of our affiliates kept the channel up and running.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Comment Below...
  • Vicki Roman

    Someone should start another soap network, and show all the old OLTL & AMC episodes, as well as Dark Shadows, Ryan’s Hope, Somerset, etc. Now that would be very cool!

    • Sheri

      Yes!!!:0)

      • Alex Revelo

        Maybe Hulu they are very smart!!!

        • kwigybo15301

          Soapnet shot themselves in the foot a while back when they started airing all the teeny bopper shows ( one tree hill, the OC, etc) and took off Another World, Dallas, Ryans hope and such. They ran those teen shows also in the middle of the afternoon (from 1-3pm here in pittsburgh) when the kids are IN SCHOOL! Biggest mistake they made in my opinion….

  • Bexx

    Good riddance! After Y&R stopped airing there really was nothing left.

  • ghostgirl

    Now where can we watch 90210?

    • Missy

      I was thinking the same thing!

  • sweetd

    I’m going to miss Soapnet, I always watched Days of Our Lives on there. I don’t like to watch it NBC because my soap gets interrupted by breaking news and I miss my soap. And they don’t repeat it. Oh well. :(

  • noelle20102

    this SUCKS!
    DISNEY AND ABC SUCK!
    SOAPNET SHOULD NOT BE GOING OFF THE AIR!

  • Alex Revelo

    Is not fair to us yes yiu can on the net but you have to wait to 10:30 or 11pm to watch GH. ABC/Disney made another big mistake!!! Giving the axe to AMC and OLTL was the first mistake what next MTV?

  • kpletch

    yes this truly sucks. whoever is in charge of Disney is a dumbass, there is no reason why Disney can’t have both Disney Jr. and Soapnet on at the same. I hope Disney Jr crashes and burns and has to be cancelled too.

  • anne grand

    Very good article. I really enjoyed reading it especially about SoapNet’s early years. i just don’t understand how ABC/D could create a network of soaps and just dismantle their entire programming. I know it is about money, has to be but there were so many ways they could have saved our shows and kept Soapnet. I am so upset and disgusted by the whole thing.

  • Gayle

    I currently get Disney Junior and Soapnet on my cable network. What is the problem? very disappointing. :(

  • Pat

    Whenever you take something away you have to give something back. I’m very upset about Soapnet going off the air with cable company. Very disgusted and disappointed. The Disney Ch is killing itself. I know what they stand for and it isn’t family oriented. Look at the story about Duck Dynasty. Nuff said!!!!

    • James

      A&E Networks is a joint venture between Disney and another company. It’s not exactly the same.

  • A Disgruntled viewer

    Disney doesn’t need any more channels than what it has. This channel was the only place we could see older shows that have been long since off-air. I am very dissatisfied with this business choice.

  • Penelope Blackwood

    I am sad to see it go. I really enjoyed watching Veronica Mars, especially seeing I didn’t watch it when it was originally on, and catching up on Beverly Hills 90210 and Gilmore Girls.

  • Robert

    Another pennywise-pound foolish decision by ABC that it will come to regret and which will result in heads rolling — just like when it prematurely cx’d AMC and OLTL when they both had lots of life left in them. Y&R and B&B are already being reaired on the TV Guide Network, and I predict in due time both GH and DAYS will find second homes — because some network honcho will see the logic in giving soap fans more access to their shows beyond their single daytime airing (which frequently get pre-empted by those pesky “special news bulletins”). Not everyone can watch during the day, and not everyone wants to watch their soaps on a computer (especially if you work on a computer all day, like I do) or on a gadget the size of a calculator. Some of us want to be able to watch our shows on a big TV screen, like we always have, and now the only other way to do that beyond watching the one-and-only airing of our shows during their network broadcasts will be to pirate episodes off torrent sites, which I am more likely to do than watch online — so kiss all those advertising dollars goodbye, ABC!