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'East Enders,' 'Ugly Betty' – prime-time soap operas thrive overseas

Soap operas are a cultural phenomenon in Latin America.

The soap opera may be struggling in the United States, but it is alive and well around the world, says Alicia Quarles, global entertainment editor for the Associated Press.

In many other countries, she points out, such as Britain ("East Enders") or Latin America (the "Ugly Betty" franchise), soaps air at night, so they have a prime-time feel. "They can push the boundaries more than a daytime broadcast can," she says via e-mail.

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Also, soaps are able to gain wide-ranging viewership because people are actually home at night, Ms. Quarles adds, versus in the US, where many people are working during the day and are not able to keep up or watch recorded episodes of soaps.

In Latin America, soaps are a cultural phenomenon. They provide water-cooler moments and are literally something most of their society watches or keeps up on, she says. Telenovelas are not long-running and wind up in less than a year. This creates must-see TV because there is an end in sight.

"In the US, our story lines can go on for decades and people know they can tune out for a year and then pick it up easily, which is not the case in Latin countries," Quarles says.

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