Soap fans, hold on to your hats, cross your fingers, and maintain a healthy skepticism. The New York Post is reporting that “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” have been saved, and will migrate from ABC to the Internet. According to the paper, Prospect Park, the management and production company that produces the hit USA show “Royal Pains” has purchased the online rights to the shows and will continue to produce the long-running soaps for a, “new, as-yet-unnamed, TV-focused online network… Prospect Park is said to be finalizing its current round of funding for its Hulu-style venture in the next month to 45 days. Other unnamed financial backers are involved. The soaps are expected to be the first of a number of brand-name TV shows to eventually land at the site.”
The Post claims that there will be new original episodes of the canceled soaps, “The firm will take charge of the same cast, crew and talent — even soap star Susan Lucci as the villainous Erica Kane — and continue the story lines.”
Watch Wednesday’s Episode Of “All My Children”:
[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/All-My-Children/459/2044474252/Wed%2C-Jul-6%2C-2011/embed 580 476]
I do not even have the words to express how much I hope this is true. But, until there is confirmation from ABC and Prospect Park, I am not going to start celebrating. Unfortunately, this news broke long after business hours making it impossible to contact either of the companies involved. Here are the reasons why I am skeptical:
+ Web shows generally have far lower budget than soaps. How could an as yet unnamed, unfinanced website afford to produce a daily show? Even a bare boned production with everyone working for scale would cost in the neighborhood of $20 million a year. It’s possible that a website could turn the soaps into a weekly series with a 13 or 22 episode season like primetime shows, but that is not what the article states. Netflix recently ventured into original series with the Kevin Spacey-starring “House of Cards,” but it is a well-established, profitable company. It has only committed to producing 26 episodes.
+ How could Prospect Park have already gotten all of the actors and writers to sign contracts? Their deals are with ABC. Unless their contracts all contain clauses guaranteeing that they will remain with the show if it is sold to another company and moves to the web, this would require a lot of negotiations. AMC star Bobbie Eakes tweeted in response to a fan query about the article, “No, we have all been released so noone owns us. They have to renegotiate with all the actors.”
+ Purchasing online rights does not have to mean producing new episodes. Prospect Park could have purchased the rights to stream all of the existing episodes of the show. There is definitely an audience for classic soaps on-line. Thousands of hours of soaps would certainly be a great way to get people to check out a new website. The article claims that the purchase of AMC and OLTL was “part of a deal with TV, film and music company Prospect Park.” The deal could be to acquire streaming rights for numerous ABC shows.
+ The article has a basic factual error. It states that both “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” will go off the air in September. OLTL will continue to air until January. If the reporter couldn’t get that detail right, it is hard to trust the rest of the article.
+ The NY Post is not always known for its accuracy. It published a strange article arguing that the use of union crews was the reason that the soaps were canceled. Yes, the paper actually argued that the problem was that the lighting directors and camera operators earned a living wage for their highly technical positions that require years of training, not declining ratings. The paper is currently being sued for libel by the hotel maid who accused IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault because it published an article claiming that she was a prostitute.
+ None of the ABC actors with a major presence on Twitter are proclaiming that the soaps have been saved. In fact, none of them seem to know anything about it. Eakes tweeted, “Well, I’m hoping this is true for everyone’s sake. We’ll just have to wait and see.” In other words, it’s news to her. That seems unlikely if this is a done deal.