In another devestating blow to the soap genre, it was announced today that In 2012, Disney Junior will take the place of SOAPnet, the 10-year-old channel devoted to soap opera reruns that is available in about 75 million homes, according to Anne Sweeney, co-chairwoman of Disney Media Networks. Disney’s current preschool operation — a block of programming on Disney Channel and about two dozen Playhouse Disney international channels — will be rebranded Disney Junior starting next year.
Ms. Sweeney called the decision to unplug SOAPnet “a tough one,” but one that made business sense because the original purpose of the channel, shifting soap operas from day to night, had grown obsolete with the rise of digital video recorders.
In terms of why do move SOAPnet to a kiddie channel, Sweeney added,“This represents the next step in a global preschool strategy that started 10 years ago with the introduction of dedicated channels overseas,” Ms. Sweeney said. Disney Junior will not feature advertising. It will be geared to a slightly wider demographic, ages 2 to 7, than other preschool offerings like Sprout and “Sesame Street,” which typically are aimed at ages 2 to 5.
Disney, which is trying to secure long-term advertising commitments for SOAPNet, emphasized that the channel would not go dark for 18 months or so. The company is in the final stages of obtaining approval for the new format from cable affiliates that carry SOAPnet. Although ABC remains committed to its soap operas, including General Hospital and All My Children,other broadcasters have been moving away from the genre, limiting the amount of content available for SOAPnet.