On January 7, 2013 the Los Angeles Times reported cancelled ABC dramas One Life To Live and All My Children were returning to production thanks to The Online Network, exclusively broadcast via Hulu, Hulu Plus and later available on iTunes. The news spread like wildfire, with excitement from soap fans buzzing throughout social media, calling Prospect Park's Jeff Kwantinez and Richard Frank heroes. Unfortunately the joy was short-lived as both productions have been plagued by numerous behind-the-scenes dramas of their own.
First, on April 19, 2013 just 10 days before the big premieres, Prospect Park filed a $25M lawsuit against ABC with accusations the network was working to sabotage their new online venture. One example of this alleged sabotage is that ABC unceremoniously killed off two leased One Life To Live characters Cole (Van Hughes) & Hope Thornhart (Caitlyn Buton), effectively limiting their storyline capabilities. Another example listed in the complaint is that General Hospital writers purposefully used non-leased OLTL character Tomas Delgado intimating he was in fact Lorenzo Alcazar, a GH character who is supposed to be dead (both roles were played by Ted King). In addition, Prospect Park demanded GH discontinue utilizing leased OLTL characters Detective John McBain, Todd Manning, Starr Manning and in January served a subpoena banning actors Michael Easton, Roger Howarth and Kristen Alderson from the GH set after February 8, 2013. Though they did briefly talk to Kris Alderson's representatives about possibly bringing her to the online reboot, the only actor Prospect Park actively sought to continue on OLTL was Roger Howarth. However it had been almost a year since OLTL had been cancelled by ABC so by this time the trio were on contract at GH and well integrated into the Port Charles canvas with storylines, as well as popular pairings. The lawsuit further demanded the character Todd Manning not be seen on GH during the same air dates he would be on the new reboot. Due these issues, in an effort to move forward, ABC and General Hospital decided to abandon the OLTL characters and create new ones for the talented trio.
Both One Life To Live and All My Children finally premiered April 29, 2013 on Hulu, as well as Canada's FX and reviews were a mixed bag from fans and critics. Most fans were simply ecstatic just to have their extended families back on their screens and embraced their soaps with open arms. Critics however, felt the productions lacked creativity, as well as development. After two weeks releasing four episodes per week of both soaps, on May 16, 2013 Prospect Park made the announcement in a press release they were scaling back to two episodes of each show per week. They cited fan's "binge watching" as the reason, though behind-the-scenes things were beginning to fall apart.
Reports the productions had gone grossly over-budget were rampant and then on June 6, 2013 news came down that Prospect Park had to halt production due to a labor dispute involving the crews of each show. The International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (ITATSE) was concerned after learning the productions were actually costing more than the agreed $125,000 per episode, which allowed Prospect Park to pay the crews at a much lower rate. Luckily after about three weeks teetering on the brink of disaster, local 600 that govern the crews reached an agreement. CEO Jeff Kwantinez released this statement, "We thank the entire I.A.T.S.E. organization for their continued support in bringing these shows to fans, and we especially appreciate the efforts of Chaim Kantor and John Ford and our entire crew for helping us to move forward as a unified team." Although they were able to dodge this bullet it was clear undertaking two major dramas was costing more than initially projected, however as far as fans knew both were set to return to production August 12, 2013 after a planned hiatus.
This morning Meg James, Entertainment Reporter for the Los Angeles Times posted an article that Prospect Park has decided to halt production of One Life To Live indefinitely until its' lawsuit with ABC is settled. Fans were disappointed, some angry by the development and took to twitter to voice their disdain for the decision.
OLTL fan Ryan Martin tweeted, "I am so sadden by the news in regards to #oltl". Another die hard fan Steph also tweeted, "Pissed @ latest PP news. How r viewers supposed 2 have any confidence in them? I can't fully invest in new #OLTL bc of ongoing crap like this!" Amanda Nichole tweeted, "It is beyond stupid. Be adults and grow up. U can't control the actors. Recast the characters if you want them that bad...not hard! #OLTL."
While most are saddened by the news of the suspension, some fans were happy to hear All My Children will remain in production. Jillian Bowe tweeted, "Meanwhile #AMC is kicking serious azz and they don't have the main attraction on there: ERICA KANE. Tell a good story folks will come. #OLTL"
It's clear fans are past their breaking point and one fan tweeted they were planning to discontinue their subscription to Hulu Plus. In response, @soaploversunite tweeted, "The fight for #OLTL is back on for now but don't boycott #AMC out of anger that doesn't help either one in the end. Support all soaps!!!" I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. All fans should continue to support our soaps- we've been through lots of bad times, as well as great times and boycotting now won't accomplish anything in the long run.
After all that fans have been through over the past 2 years, it's not surprising to see fans do not trust what is going on.
I exclusively spoke to reporter Meg James who confirmed AMC did not go back into production on August 12, but is slated to begin production later this month. Per her conversation with All My Children's Executive Producer Ginger Smith, everyone is revving up and writers will continue to work towards developing Season Two. James described, "The show is in a recalibration mode. They plan to continue production of AMC, but first want to structure stories in a way more appealing for internet audiences.” She also learned the writers have been watching successful foreign soap operas including Asian and Telenovelas in an effort to educate themselves on formatting shorter story arcs.
In my view, the problem is due to Prospect Park's rush to production before the Disney deadline February 2013. They did not have time to research television versus online formatting for soaps, nor did they learn how the audience's viewing habits differ, which I believe was a costly mistake. Unlike traditional television daytime dramas where stories can go on daily for a long period of time slowly building up to a crescendo, online serials must have a clear beginning, middle and end, with story arcs that come to some sort of conclusion after a limited amount of time. In my opinion these shows should be structured more like prime-time, where you have a set number of episodes within a season and story arcs have conclusions that then feed into the next season's storylines.
Since One Life To Live has been pushed to the back-burner, Prospect Park can now focus on All My Children. Writers can take the time to develop true story arcs and marketing can utilize its' popularity to determine how to make these shows financially lucrative. Due to the Disney deadline they were unable to procure any sponsorship that could have brought in advertising revenue, which is the key to all productions. Although there are private investors, Prospect Park is currently seeking additional financial backing as projected costs of production have well exceeded their budget.
Tonight fans are asking why production of One Life To Live been cancelled while All My Children will continue? It's important to note that AMC went with a hipper, younger cast tied to the original core families of Pine Valley, while OLTL used many returning favorites with very few new cast members. I'm not saying this is the reason, however based on the ratings over the past few months it's clear AMC has been more popular with viewers. Interestingly through the summer Oprah's network OWN agreed to do a limited run, airing OLTL and AMC in a 10-week Summer Fling. Though fans were happy to see their shows on television again, ratings were extensively higher for AMC than OLTL, both in Hulu/iTunes viewership and on OWN. Will OWN continue to air repeats in the future in an effort to broaden the audience? Although Prospect Park would like to maintain their relationship with OWN, it will be up to the network as to whether or not the partnership is mutually beneficial. While ratings have been solid on Hulu and iTunes, Prospect Park banked on higher ratings figuring viewers would easily make the jump to watching online. Unfortunately they didn't factor in how access to the internet would hinder the ratings game as those not willing to make the jump to view shows online, as well as those who don't even own a computer or other devices, can really affect the numbers. Trying to figure out viewer habits has also been challenging. It's been a learning curve for all involved.
The quest to effectively make the jump from television to internet may seem easy enough, but as those within the entertainment and soap industries will tell you, this is far from the case. Will Prospect Park be able to figure out how to keep our soaps alive while making a profit for the production company? Can they get OLTL back into production sooner rather than later and will soap fans continue to have faith in Prospect Park? It all remains to be seen. This soap fan hopes the magic formula is finally found so that we can continue watching our favorite daytime dramas for generations to come.
Be sure to tune in to RHeart Radio, the Fan's Voice, Wednesday Sept. 4 at 10pm (ET) as we discuss the latest development.
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