TV Ratings: 'Young and the Restless' Marks 30 Straight Years as No. 1 Daytime Soap

The CBS mainstay has been the most-watched soap opera for a remarkable 1,560 consecutive weeks.
Sonja Flemming/CBS
Melody Thomas Scott and Eric Braeden of 'The Young and the Restless'

In the final week of 1988, there were 13 daytime dramas on the air at ABC, CBS and NBC; The Oprah Winfrey Show was in its third year; Judy Sheindlin was a judge in the New York City courts; and Jerry Springer was a local news anchor in Cincinnati.

Also that week, CBS' The Young and the Restless beat out ABC's General Hospital as the most-watched soap opera.

A whole lot has changed in daytime TV in the past 30 years — there are just four soaps, for one thing, and 15 syndicated and network talkers. One constant: The Young and the Restless has been the most-watched soap every week since, a streak that now stretches to an incredible 1,560 consecutive weeks — exactly 30 years. No modern entertainment program in any daypart has had such a long streak.

Angelica McDaniel, executive vp daytime programs and syndicated program development at CBS, attributes the remarkable run to both the strong storytelling on Young and the Restless and a cast that includes several mainstays who have been around the entire time.

"The Young and the Restless has some of the best actors in the industry — not in soaps, not in daytime, but in television," McDaniel told The Hollywood Reporter." We have iconic, legacy characters that have been on our show for decades. Melody Thomas Scott will be celebrating her 40th year on the show in February. Peter Bergman just reached his 30th anniversary in November. Eric Braeden started in 1980. We just have an incredible arsenal of actors who are so talented and play these characters so well that you don't even realize they're characters. They become people who are part of your life, part of your daily existence."

General Hospital had dominated the 1980s, leading the ratings pack among daytime dramas for seven straight seasons. Y&R tied for the lead among households for the 1987-88 season and moved into first place in 1988-89 — and it hasn't given up the top ranking since.

Young and the Restless has also finished No. 1 among soaps in the key daytime demographic of women 25-54 every year (if not every individual week) since 2004-05. Among women 18-49, the show's streak dates back to 2003-04.

So far in 2018-19, Young and the Restless is averaging 4.42 million daily viewers — more than about a third of primetime shows on the broadcast networks and more than every single daytime talk show and every late-night program.

What's more, the great majority of those people watch episodes on the day they air. McDaniel said the daily nature of soaps has made them much less susceptible to delayed viewing, and therefore commercial-skipping, than primetime shows.

"The great thing about daytime television is we have loyal, passionate viewers, and they really like to tune in day and date," she said. "They want to stick with their stories and see what's happening today. … Having said that, The Young and the Restless is also one of the top streamed shows on CBS.com. As trends evolve, we are where our viewers are, and we're making shows readily accessible so they can get their fix and follow their stories."

The Young and the Restless has also survived a serious contraction of the daytime drama world, with a dozen soaps going off the air during its 30-year streak. But with no real end to the run in sight, McDaniel likewise isn't planning for the end of the series.

"We have this award-winning, ratings-generating, money-making show, and it really adds value to CBS," she said. "We expect it be a part of our lineup in the future."