Life at the top is seldom the cushy ride that some might imagine it to be. Undoubtedly, there are perks to holding the top slot in any industry, but the hard work of success does not end once the climb has been completed. Even while working to strengthen its own position, the market leader must always keep an eye on rising contenders and stay abreast of emerging industry trends. For proof of the difficulty in maintaining a competitive advantage, you need look no further than the afternoon television landscape, where perennial front-runner "The Young and the Restless" has suddenly found itself in choppy waters. While the venerable CBS soap opera still leads all comers by a hefty margin, a look at recent Nielsen ratings reveals some definite erosion in the show's fan base.
During the last week of February, "The Young and the Restless" lost about 231,000 viewers compared to the previous week. While a one-week dip is understandable on occasion and probably not reason for huge concern, the more alarming fact is that CBS's big star lost more than 111,000 viewers when compared to the same period in 2011. Most damning of all is that "The Young and the Restless" is losing audience pretty much across the board, including among women aged 18 to 49 years. In that key demographic, the Genoa City gang is down 86,000 viewers week-to-week and 42,000 year-to-year.
Compounding CBS's problems are the gains being posted by other soaps, most notably ABC's "General Hospital." While down for the year, the former number one serial gained about 50,000 viewers week-to-week, and even more among the key demographic groups. There seems to be a feeling among many circles that "General Hospital" is gaining some steam with recent story lines that have engaged their long-time audiences and intrigued the younger crowd, as well.
If there is a silver lining in the gloomy ratings for CBS, it is the gains posted by "The Bold and the Beautiful." The less celebrated sister show of "The Young and the Restless" is seeing solid weekly and yearly gains, digging its heals into the number two soap opera slot. And, in the long run, a rebound by "General Hospital" is probably a good thing for the genre overall. It could be a sign that the shaken soaps landscape is finally starting to stabilize after several years of turmoil and cancellations.