'All My Children,' 'One Life to Live' Moving to New Production Facilities

"Everyone has pitched in, and everyone has stepped up to the plate, and we've tightened where we can," Lucci said. "I've felt it in a couple of ways, there's some missing faces on the studio floor, and that's sad because we really are an ensemble here, from top to bottom, not just the company of actors but the crew, very much so."

Other soap cities have also changed because of audience tastes and the economy. Earlier this year, CBS announced it would pull "Guiding Light" off the air in September after 72 years of daily episodes. NBC laid off Deidre Hall, a mainstay of "Days of Our Lives" for more than three decades.

"The recession has affected everything and obviously, you know, my big challenge is, how do you tighten a budget and not see it on the air?" said Hanan Carruthers.

But ultimately, the soaps that brought us stars like Lucci, Kelly Ripa, Demi Moore, John Stamos and Rick Springfield have a secret weapon, something that transcends downturns and dollars: fans -- deeply devoted, committed fans.

"We are in their living room every single day, they see us every day, it's an ongoing story," Cameron Mathison, who plays heartthrob Ryan Lavery, told "Nightline." "It's not something you have to tune in every week to find out, it's right there for an hour every day in your living room, and if you're home that's a lot of your life, that's a lot of consistency."

Additional reporting contributed by John Berman and Steven Baker.

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