Oldest Soap Operas in the World

10 Oldest Soap Operas in the World

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With so many highly rated prestige shows on television these days, soap operas seem like a relic from the long past. However, soap operas are still some of the most popular daytime TV shows in the world and every country with a television industry has their own soap opera division. Not only are soap operas watched by millions, but they are some of the longest-running shows on TV (and radio). All of the soap operas on this list have been airing for several decades and show no signs of slowing down.
As of June 2020, this list is as accurate as possible and will be updated as needed.

10. The Bold and the Beautiful

First Premiered: March 23, 1987
Country of Origin:  USA
Home Network or Station: CBS
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): 33
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): over 8,000

The Bold and the Beautifulphoto source: Wikipedia

The Bold and the Beautiful is the youngest of the last few classic American soap operas still on air. The show premiered its first episode in 1987 and is in its 33rd season. The Bold and the Beautiful was created William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell  as a sister show for CBS’s The Young and the Restless. Over the years several characters from both shows have crossed over to the other. Since the beginning, The Bold and the Beautiful has mainly focused on the Forrester family and their fashion house business, Forrester Creations.

Did You Know?

The Bold and the Beautiful is aired in over 100 countries and watched by more than 35 million people per episode.


9. Neighbours

First Premiered: March 18, 1985
Country of Origin:  Australia
Home Network or Station: 10 Peach (originally Seven Network)
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): N/A
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): 8,384

Neighboursphoto source: Sky News

Neighbours is the only non-British or American soap opera on this list and is not only the oldest soap opera in Australia, it is also the longest-running drama series in Australian television. The show first aired in March 1985 and centers on the lives of the residents of the fictional town of Erinsborough. The main focus of Neighbours is on the characters living on Ramsay Street, and its neighbouring area, the Lassiters complex, which includes a bar, hotel, café, police station, lawyers’ office and park.

Did You Know?

Many now famous Australian actors got their start on Neighbours, including Kylie Minogue, Delta Goodrem, Natalie Imbruglia, Guy Pearce, and Margot Robbie.


8. EastEnders

First Premiered: February 19, 1985
Country of Origin:  United Kingdom
Home Network or Station: BBC
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): N/A
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): 6,122

EastEndersphoto source: Wikipedia

While many of the oldest soap operas on this list are from the United Kingdom, EastEnders is probably the most popular of the bunch. EastEnders isn’t quite as old as some of the others, premiering back in 1985, but it has had a significant impact on British popular culture since it first came on TV. The show is often referenced in other British television programs, movies, and music.

Over the years, EastEnders has been praised and criticized for many of its storylines, which deal with hard subjects such as violence, rape, and child abuse. Despite the complaints, EastEnders consistently receives between 5 and 7 million viewers per episode.

Did You Know?

The 1986 Christmas Day episode of the EastEnders was viewed by 30 million people and remains the highest viewed episode of any soap in UK television history.


7. Pobol y Cwm

First Premiered: October 16, 1974
Country of Origin:  United Kingdom, specifically Wales
Home Network or Station: S4C (originally BBC)
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): N/A
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): over 8,000

Pobol y Cwmphoto source: Wikipedia

Pobol y Cwm is a Welsh soap opera and is the oldest one produced by the BBC. The show, which is entirely in Welsh, debuted on October 16, 1974, airing over 8,000 episodes. Pobol y Cwm has been produced by S4C since 1982 and is the channel’s most watched program besides Rugby specials. Four episodes of Pobol y Cwm are produced each week with an hour long episode airing every Wednesday.

Did You Know?

Although Pobol y Cwm has been on for nearly five decades, the show has not had as rigorous a schedule as the other soap operas on this list and only recently celebrated hitting 8,000 episodes in late September 2019.


6. The Young and the Restless

First Premiered: March 26, 1973
Country of Origin:  USA
Home Network or Station: CBS
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): 47
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): over 11,000

The Young and the Restlessphoto source: Wikipedia

The Young and the Restless was created in 1973 by William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell for CBS. It is the third oldest American soap opera, behind General Hospital and Days of Our Lives. The Young and the Restless originally focused on the rich Brooks family and the working-class Foster family. After most of the cast left, new families were added and stories changed. However, one story line that has been around since the beginning is the feud between characters Jill Abbott and Katherine Chancellor.

Did You Know?

As of December 12, 2013, according to Nielsen ratings, The Young and the Restless was the leading daytime drama for an unprecedented 1,300 weeks, or 25 years.


5. Emmerdale

First Premiered: October 16, 1972
Country of Origin:  United Kingdom
Home Network or Station: ITV
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): N/A
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): 8,802

Emmerdalephoto source: Wikipedia

Emmerdale is another long running British soap opera from ITV. The show first premiered on October 16, 1972 and has aired more than 8,802 episodes. Emmerdale, originally called Emmerdale Farm, was actually set in a fictional town called Beckindale until 1994, when the town’s name was changed to Emmerdale.

The original premise of Emmerdale was inspired by the oldest soap opera, The Archers, which focused on a family living on a farm and sometimes the nearby villagers. Since then, Emmerdale has shifted focus to the village and the characters living there, but still focuses on the same families it has since the beginning.

Did You Know?

Not only is Emmerdale popular in the UK, it is the most watched non-news daytime TV show in Sweden, having first aired there not long after it premiered in the UK.


4. Days of Our Lives

First Premiered: November 8, 1965
Country of Origin:  USA
Home Network or Station: NBC
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): 54
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): 13,872

Days of Our Livesphoto source: Wikipedia

Days of Our Lives, affectionately called Days but its fans, is the second oldest American soap opera. The show has been running since 1965, airing over 13,872 episodes across 54 seasons. Days of Our Lives celebrated its 50th anniversary in November 2015.

The series covers stories featuring its two main families, the Hortons and the Bradys, in a town called Salem. Over the years, several other families have been added to the story, but the Hortons and the Bradys continue to be the show’s main focus.

Did You Know?

Actress Susan Seaforth Hayes, who plays Julie Olson Williams, is the only actor to appear on Days of Our Lives in all seven decades it has been on the air.


3. General Hospital

First Premiered: April 1, 1963
Country of Origin:  USA
Home Network or Station: ABC
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): 57
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): Over 14,000

General Hospitalphoto source: Wikipedia

While General Hospital might not be the oldest ever soap opera, it is the longest-running American soap opera. The show started in 1963 and is still going strong. It is one of the few remaining classic American soap operas still on television. Over the years, General Hospital has aired over 57 seasons and more than 14,000 episodes!

The popularity of General Hospital has led to many spinoffs (none lasting nearly as long as classic General Hospital), including: The Young Marrieds, a UK primetime series with the same name, Port Charles, and General Hospital: Night Shift.

Did You Know?

General Hospital holds the record for most Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series, with 13 wins.


2. Coronation Street

First Premiered: December 9, 1960
Country of Origin:  United Kingdom
Home Network or Station: ITV
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): N/A
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): 10,074

Coronation Streetphoto source: Wikipedia

The UK’s Coronation Street holds the official Guinness World Record for being the longest running/oldest television soap opera in history. Coronation Street first premiered in 1960 and has since aired over 10,000 episodes. The show is set in the fictional town of Weatherfield, which is based on the real inner-city of Salford, England.

Coronation Street depicts a down-to-earth, working-class community, combined with light-hearted humor and strong characters. The show’s relatability has made Coronation Street an enduring part of British culture and the show averages around seven million viewers per episode.

Did You Know?

Coronation Street has seen several characters and actors come and go over the years, but actor William Roache, who plays grandpa Ken Barlow, has been on the show since the very first episode.


1. The Archers

First Premiered: January 1, 1951
Country of Origin:  United Kingdom
Home Network or Station: BBC Radio 4
No. of Seasons (as of June 2020): N/A
No. of Episodes (as of June 2020): 19,221

The Archersphoto source: Newsweek

The Archers first aired on British radios on January 1, 1951, making it the oldest soap opera in the world. The show is the only radio program on this list and has aired over 19,000 episodes during the last 69 years. Although The Archers made its official debut in 1951, five pilot episodes were released in 1950.

Set in the fictional English village of Ambridge, The Archers was originally billed as an everyday story about country folk. Today, The Archers is a contemporary drama in a rural setting.

Did You Know?

Although The Archers has been on for several decades, the show is still incredibly popular with over 5 million listeners still tuning in today.


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