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Guiding Light

Guiding LightCBS Turning Off ‘Guiding Light’

CBS announced Wednesday the cancellation of the longest-running scripted program in broadcasting history, the soap opera “Guiding Light.”

It has been on radio and then television for 72 years, beginning on NBC radio in 1937 and moving to CBS television in 1952. “Guiding Light” is the only program now on the air to have made the transition from radio to television. The last broadcast is scheduled for Sept. 18.

The move came after many years of steep ratings decline for the soap, which was owned by Procter & Gamble, and thus was a link to the earliest days of daytime serial dramas on radio. The dramas gained the name “soap operas” because of sponsorship by soap companies.

CBS and the producers of “Guiding Light” — which was also a throwback in being shot on the East Coast, in Manhattan and on some sets in New Jersey — had taken several steps in recent years to try to keep the franchise alive, especially in switching the production to a digital format intended to reduce costs.

That move last year, to handheld digital cameras and permanent four-walled sets as opposed to the traditional three-walled sets built by soaps to accommodate bulky stationary cameras, saved considerable money, according to CBS executives.

But not enough to save the series. This year the audience for “Guiding Light” declined to just 2.1 million viewers. Its pattern over recent years had been steadily downward from 3 million viewers five years ago.

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