"As the World Turns" has been on the air since 1956 and televised its 13,661st episode Tuesday. Its last episode will be next September, the network said.
It's the second daytime drama CBS has canceled in a year, after "Guiding Light." Both shows were produced by a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, the company for which the term "soap operas" was created because it used the shows to hawk products like Ivory soap and Duz laundry detergent.
Daytime dramas have been fading as a genre for years with more women joining the work force and the increased number of channels offering alternatives like news, talk, reality and game shows. In tough economic times, paying casts, producers and writers proved prohibitive to networks when there were cheaper alternatives.
The cancellation will leave CBS with only two daytime dramas: "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and Beautiful."
Through the years, actors Marisa Tomei, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey and James Earl Jones have appeared on "As the World Turns." The show follows families in the Illinois town of Oakdale.
"It's a hell of a Christmas present," said actress Eileen Fulton, who will mark 50 years playing the character Lisa Grimaldi on the show. Her character has been through nine marriages and Fulton was hoping for a 10th before the signoff.
"I'm just very sad," she said. "I'm sad for all of the people who work out there in Brooklyn (where the show is filmed). We're a family. I hate to be split up. It's like a divorce."
Brian Cahill, senior vice president and managing director of the P&G subsidiary TeleNext Media Inc., said the company is actively seeking a new outlet to carry the show.
TeleNext said the same thing about "Guiding Light," which went off the air in September, but has been unable to find a new home. Keeping the show alive online has been discussed, but that's an alternative where cost may prove prohibitive.
Procter & Gamble first began producing soap operas in 1933 with the radio show "Ma Perkins," and has made a total of 20 such programs in its history.
CBS is a division of CBS Corp.