Why is it called a ‘soap opera’

Photo by Brian McHugh (https://www.flickr.com/photos/brianmchughproductions/)

I have always wondered why dramas about the ‘everyday’ lives of people were called ‘soap operas’ and today I happened on the answer. Back in the 1930’s and 40’s a number of successful dramas were made by Procter and Gamble productions in the USA. This was a division of the large company famed for producing domestic wares such as soap powder – hence they were ‘soap operas’. Many of these originals continued to be shown in the early years of this century, but with the declining audiences, one by one they were shut down. Guiding light ceased production in 2009 after a 72-year run and As the World turns finished in 2010 having run for 54-years.

Procter and Gamble Productions, now known as Procter and Gamble entertainment is still in existence concentrating on ‘multi-platform entertainment’ but still sponsors day-time drama on the CBS channel.

The series Coronation Street is the oldest running TV soap opera in the UK, having begun transmission in December 1960. This almost makes it the oldest soap still in production in the world. However, this is eclipsed by The Archers on BBC radio which first broadcast in 1950 and still produces 6 episodes a week.


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