More Details Emerge About Plans for Online Revival of Two Soaps

"All My Children." (ABC)

What is it about the holidays and the online versions of “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”? The plans to move the two canceled ABC soaps online fell apart the day before Thanksgiving 2011.  Here we are on the day after Christmas 2012 starting this whole dance again. Last Monday, Deadline reported that production company Prospect Park had signed deals with the GA and AFTRA and was attempting a last minute revival of the soaps before its licensing deal with ABC expired. Just as it did last year, Prospect Park refused to comment.

This weekend, Nelson Branco of the subscription-only newsletter Soaps Uncensored and the always reliable Daytime Confidential, did some great investigative journalism and ferreted out the details of Prospect Park’s plans. Branco learned that Prospect Park plans to rent studio space in Stamford, Connecticut. This would in all probability be cheaper than filming in New York City not only because the rent would be lower, but the union regulations for crew would not be as strict. That was one of the reasons that “Guiding Light” moved much of its filming to New Jersey during its final year.

Reportedly, the current plans are for each show to produce four half-hour episodes a week with a recap show streaming on Fridays. This is scaled back from last year’s goal of hour long episodes. There will be episodes produced 42 weeks a year. This reduced length and schedule would theoretically make it possible to film a whole year’s worth of shows in six months.

Branco got his hands on some financial documents that reveal ABC licensed AMC for 4.5 million a year and OLTL for 4 million. This means ABC has a significant financial incentive to give Prospect Park a little more time to make the online versions of the show happen. Though OLTL has higher ratings than AMC for its final two years AMC’s longterm popularity and mainstream recognition meant that it was a slightly more valuable brand.

Daytime Confidential has learned that former “All My Children” producer Ginger Smith, who was with the show for two decades, is set to executive produce the online version of the show. The site also reports that Prospect Park hopes to avoid making a deal with the Writers Guild by using daytime writers who opted for financial core status during the writers strike, which allows them to work on non-union programs. Enough writers chose this path, including several with headwriting experience, that it would be possible to assemble a staff comprised solely of financial core writers. If this is indeed the plan, its ethically dubious, especially given that Prospect Park’s cable shows including “Royal Pains” and “Wilfred” use union writers, but legal. It would allow the company to pay writers as little as the market will bear. Whether this plan will result in quality shows remains a question. Dena Higley is a financial-core writer who previously served as headwriter for OLTL, but I doubt most fans would want her to return to the show.

There is still no word on the fate of the former OLTL actors who are currently working on GH, especially Michael Easton who signed a deal with Prospect Park to appear on the online version of the show. It’s equally unclear whether the contracts that numerous OLTL cast members signed last year are still binding. Only two AMC stars, Cameron Mathison and Lindsay Hartley were ever signed to the online version of the show. It’s hard to imagine that the online shows would work without the participation of at least some of each show’s biggest stars.

It’s striking that Prospect Park 2.0 is a mirror image of the previous attempt. This time, it’s AMC that has an executive producer lined-up and seems like it’s on more solid footing. This time, the company is building an infrastructure for the shows instead of making deals with talent. But, like last time, the company is choosing to operate in secrecy. Its unclear whether the company, who had trouble raising money last time, has the money to produce the program now, or who their financial partners are. It’s also unclear whether the shows will stream on last year’s planned The Online Network, which is still a blank webpage, or on a more established online distribution platform. No premiere date has been announced. We are right back where we were a year ago.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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