CBS may end "Guiding Light"

The Guiding Light may soon be extinguished.

CBS and Procter & Gamble Productions are expected to decide soon on the fate of television and radio’s longest-running program (combined) currently clocked in at 70 years.

Light, which began on radio in 1937 and moved to television in 1952, has fared poorly in the ratings over the last two decades. It is the lowest-rated serial on CBS, who has dominated daytime ratings during the same time span.

A year ago, the serial employed a new shooting technique in order to cut production costs, but it hasn’t gone over well with fans, who continue to abandon the show in droves. Ratings are down in key demos, with a 25 percent drop in the female 18-49 demo.

The soap is usually scheduled at 3 p.m. (ET) – and has been since February 1980. But many affiliates – including several CBS owned-and-operated stations – schedule the program in the mornings, including WBBM-TV in Chicago, who airs it at 9 a.m. to a very sparse crowd (after all, it is on opposite The Oprah Winfrey Show.)

Markets airing Guiding Light at 9 or 10 a.m., include New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Baltimore, South Bend, Albany, N.Y. , and Fort Wayne, Ind.

In Sacramento, Guiding Light has not aired there in seventeen years, even as the CBS affiliate (KOVR-TV) became an O&O. The former CBS affiliate (KXTV – now an ABC affiliate – dropped the show in 1992.)

In Flint, Mich. WNEM-TV aired Guiding Light at 10 a.m., but dropped the show in 1996 (it has since resurfaced on one of its digital subchannels.) In nearby Detroit, former CBS affilaite WJBK-TV (now Fox O&O) moved Light to 10 a.m. in 1992, and when CBS moved to WWJ-TV in 1994, Light kept its 10 a.m. time slot, where it remains today.

If Guiding Light gets canned, CBS may replace the serial with either game shows or reality programs, or hand the afternoon time period back to affiliates to program – or, take back the 10 a.m. ET slot for the new fare and hand the 3 p.m. slot to affiliates.

NBC handed back the 3 p.m. slot back a decade ago, when the network canceled Sunset Beach, sweeping it out the door, along with longtime veteran Another World (which left a few months earlier after a 35-year run. Keep in mind Beach was originally scheduled in-pattern at 3 p.m. – however, affiliates and O&Os often shuffled shows around the daytime schedule and wound up airing at various times in various markets.)