Oap operas have been around a long time and are watched by millions of people from a very wide range of age and society backgrounds. The term soap opera comes from the fact that when the TV serials first came out, they were sponsored by the major soap producing companies. In this informative essay, I intend to provide you with a brief introduction to the features involved in most soap operas, including characterization and the structure of soaps. In addition I will look into why soaps have become so popular and how the soap producers make sure they remain popular through different skills of marketing and target audience.
There are a number of features that are common to most soap operas. They all have a serial structure and are generally broadcast daily or three or four times weekly, a good example is “East Enders” which is shown every weekday evening. Almost all soaps are based on family themes with several stories developing at the same time, such as “Neighbours” or “Coronation Street”. This is often to create a contrast between the lighthearted stories and the more serious one.
All soaps are set in a small community or country, for example, “East Enders” is set in a London residential area whilst “Neighbours” is set in an Australian town or village. Furthermore, there is often a bar or cafi?? where all the characters can meet, gossip and socialize. Usually, in most soap operas the same characters will be caste episode after episode and along with the community background, as the soap matures, a sense of history is created. For example, some character have been with “East Enders” for as long as forty years and those characters have virtually lived out their lives in “East Enders”.
Finally, to increase viewer numbers and create publicity for a soap opera, most soaps try to entice their viewer by ending their episode in cliff hangers, and on certain days of the year, such as Christmas, the cliffhangers will be even more dramatic so the best effect can be achieved. All soaps are targeted at a wide range of audience and certain techniques are used by the programme makers to reach these people. These is firstly achieved by having a wide appeal, because several story lines are developing at the same time, the viewer can at least identify with one of the stories no matter what age or background he or she comes from.
Secondly, on certain days of the year, story lines generally gets more and more dramatic as tension builds up to something big happening, this will dramatically increase the number of people who will watch soaps. For example, in “East Enders”, Jamie has a fatal accident at Christmas, that would have greatly increased their ratings. Furthermore, to achieving maximum viewer numbers, most of the major soaps like “East Enders”, “Coronation Street” and “HollyOakes” will have prime time slots-weekday nights from six to eight thirty. During those times, people have just come home from work and will be happy to sit down for some relaxation.
Finally, minor American or Australian soaps like “Neighbours” or “Home and Away” will be part of day time viewing because viewers in the UK are unlikely to identify with their story lines as much as soaps set in the UK itself. Effective marketing ensures that as many people as possible watches soap operas. There are a number of ways in which soap operas could be promoted and publicized. All soaps make extensive use of short TV advertisements during other TV programmes, these often include short trailer with which to entice and attract viewers.
Furthermore, many soaps such as “East Enders” take advantage of different magazines such as “Inside Soap” not only do the magazine provide a detailed timetable of what is on TV, they offer small teasers on different soap story line, this further entices viewers. In addition, regular soap updates slot takes the viewers behind the scenes where the entire planning and gossip takes place. To further increase viewer numbers and publicity, soaps use sponsorships from other famous household names like Cadbury’s and Daz.
Finally, almost all soaps are promoted with its unique theme tune. This also often reflects a soap’s target audience, the theme tunes rarely change much over the years, as viewers will become attached to them. For example, when “East Enders” tried to modernize their theme tune their was a great outcry from the nation and the programme makers were forced to bring back the old theme tune. All the above methods mean that today, more than sixteen million people watch soaps regularly in the UK alone, and almost everybody has watched a soap at some point in their life.
Characterization is an integral part of soap operas, but there are certain types of stock characters that most soap operas have. These characters include strong matriarchal characters-women who are head of family, who is emotionally strong and keeps the family together during times of difficulty. Matriarchal characters also solve disputes with other families and are usually portrayed as very determined. Teenage tearaways are common to almost all soap operas, these are usually sons and daughters who become involved in very serious issues such as drugs, teenage pregnancy, abortion, gangsterism…
For example, in East Enders, a seventeen year old girl runs away from home and becomes a prostitute. Furthermore, very young children or babies are often portrayed as commodities or objects to be fought over as parents breakup and divorce. Finally many soaps have losers, they are usually involved in more lighthearted stories and are generally around for comic relief. All these characters normally stay on with the soap for several months at least, however, sometimes, new characters will join a soap opera and older character may die or leave.
New characters are usually relatives of already existing characters whilst a character leaving will always provide the soap makers with an excellent opportunity to create a dramatic exit. For example, in “Holly Oakes”, Norman and Jamie are ‘killed’ in a landslide when their van is swept off a cliff. That certainly increased their viewer numbers. In conclusion, soaps have become an everyday part of modern life; almost everyone watches soaps and over a third or so of British people watch soaps daily.
The reason why soaps operas are so popular is because they are targeted at a very wide range of target audiences, this is achieved by having a wide range of characters and several story lines developing at the same time, so anybody can relate to it. Also soaps’ success has a great deal to do with their extensive use of many different marketing techniques including TV adverts and magazine shows. Personally, I enjoy watching soaps because I like the serial structure of soaps, I really enjoy the tension as dramatic stories develop and the history that is gradually built up as a soap develops.