‘The Young and the Restless’ vs. ‘Days of Our Lives’: Which Soap Opera Is the Most Popular?

The golden age of the soap opera might be over, but daytime dramas aren’t dead yet. Currently, four soaps are still running: The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless. While viewership has slipped in recent years, millions still tune in to see the latest developments in these long-running stories, all of which have been on the air for decades. But which is the most popular soap opera? 

‘The Young and the Restless’ is the most popular soap opera 

The Young and the Restless
A scene from a 2016 episode of The Young and the Restless | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images)

CBS’s The Young and the Restless is the most popular soap currently airing on TV, according to Nielsen data shared by TVSeriesFinale.com. The show, which debuted in 1973, attracted an average of 3.699 million viewers during the 2019-20 season. 

The 30-minute CBS soap The Bold and the Beautiful was in second place, with an average of 3.147 million viewers. ABC’s General Hospital was in third place with 2.139 million people tuning in, on average. Days of Our Lives, which airs on NBC, took the fourth-place spot, with an average of 1.956 million viewers. 

So far, the numbers are down for all four soaps this season. The Young and the Restless averaged just over 4 million viewers in the 2018-19 season, while The Bold and the Beautiful was at 3.308 million. General Hospital attracted an average audience of 2.295 million, and Days of Our Lives was at 2.121 million.

Will soap operas survive? 

As audiences shrink, some are worried that it’s only a matter of time before the networks pull the plug on another soap opera. The genre experienced a wave of cancellations about a decade ago. Guiding Light went dark in 2009 after airing for 57 years (it’s still the longest-running drama in U.S. TV history). As the World Turns was canceled in 2010, All My Children ended its run in 2011, and One Life to Live last aired in 2012. 

In November 2019, Days of Our Lives fans panicked when they heard that the show’s entire cast had been released from their contracts. However, stars assured viewers that the show wasn’t going anywhere. In January 2020, NBC confirmed that Days would likely be back for its 56th season. 

“We’re in the middle of knowing very soon [whether] Days of Our Lives is going to carry on,” NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy said at the Television Critics Association press tour. “We love it. Millions of Americans watch it every week. … I know this will be good news for the fans. I know that someone [at the network is] going, ‘You can’t say that,; but we are of course carrying on with Days of Our Lives.”

Telegy also confirmed that the show would continue to air on NBC, not move to Peacock, the network’s upcoming streaming service, Deadline reported. 

Could old soaps get a reboot?

Susan Lucci film the final episode of All My Children
Susan Lucci films the final episode of All My Children| Rick Rowell/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Some fans are even hoping that some canceled soaps could eventually return to TV. ABC execs have talked about the possibility of reviving All My Children and One Life to Live, but there are no firm plans to bring the shows back. 

“There’s nothing that I can report definitively, but I can tell you it’s something we’re thinking about and looking into and having conversations about,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said at the summer TCA press tour, according to SoapCentral.com. “Should there be the right opportunity, we will revisit…. We’re really looking at everything, other models and ways of telling those stories.”