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Why ABC’s Soap Operas Matter, After All

The news that ABC’s canceled soap operas are to continue after all, in the same format, online may not sound like it, but it might be the most significant news in original online television content this year. Will the web become the new television afterlife?

Admittedly, the game changer isn’t that All My Children or One Life to Live have been taken off the air in favor of cheaper daytime programming — that, sadly, is the way the business works — but the news Thursday that both shows have been, essentially, un-canceled, and licensed by ABC to Prospect Park, a producer of online-only content to continue as web-only series while keeping the same creative teams behind the scenes and, interestingly, running times despite their new venues. Essentially, the shows are continuing as-is, except they’ll be online instead of on regular television.

I doubt that I’m the only person who sees this as a potentially huge event. For one thing, it offers the chance to bring an entirely new audience to online television — if even half of AMC or OLTL‘s current audience follow the shows to the web, that’d not only likely be a significant increase in the audience for original longform web content, but also definitely be a demographic shift for those paying attention to online longform drama. For another, it’s a sign that the internet is ready to seriously try and take on television at its own game.

We’ve come close to this before — Hulu and Netflix are both working on all-new original content, and various canceled TV shows have had unaired material appear online — but normally, the TV/online relationship is either one of “Here are some deleted scenes that we’ll put online before they end up on the DVDs” or “I wonder if we can develop this online hit into a TV show.” Seeing the crossover happen in this direction is so new that it’s exciting, even though I care little for the shows themselves. If the two soaps find success online (although quite what would define success in this setting, I’m unsure), it could open up the floodgates for other shows that couldn’t quite make the math work on television to return online — imagine the possibilities! — or, perhaps more importantly, offering an additional revenue stream to make shows financially viable for broadcasters. What would a digital debut-network TV-DVD model look like to shows that don’t necessarily have the highest ratings? What shows could that help keep alive?

It all depends, of course, on how many people tune in for the online versions of the soaps. If no one watches, it’s not the future of anything, just a failed experiment — and, sadly, another nail in the coffin of serious online television production. But if it works, if the existing audience log on in big enough numbers, then who knows what could happen? Who would’ve expected so much to rest on the success of One Life to Live?

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Comments

  • Liana

    I would definitely watch All My Children and One Life to Live online!!

  • http://twitter.com/Kinravip Rob Pivarnik

    The biggest difference in watching the soaps online is that Prospect Park can force the viewer to sit through the commercials, whereas Disney/ABC had no control over our zap-happy DVR remotes. Although part of me was planning to be grateful about recovering 10 hours of time per week, I’ve been watching AMC and OLTL since 1973, so I’m more than glad to see them continue. Not to mention the fact that I have acquaintances (some real-life and several Twitterverse) on all three ABC soaps and don’t want to see casts & crews out of work. Thanks, Prospect Park. I hope you can make this work.

  • ZB

    for this to work it’s got to be available on a television, i.e. a roku box/x-box/psn/etc. channel. The biggest hurdle online content faces is that people don’t want to sit at their computer desk to watch television.

  • Twin1todd

    I think in the next few years most content will be online and cost less than directv or dish with all sports available by each league like mlb.tv and such.With new tv’s being wi-fi ready this will make it easier to stream shows at home.We can tell Rupert Murdick and DTV to suck it.New shows that never would show up on the main networks or cable will be developed and thrive in this form.Maybe we could even see an adaptation of Strangers in Paradise  or something similar.That would be very cool.Y,Fables,Sandman,anything.Free of constraints that networks put on production.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OOMWN5TCVHZYHI5YNJTVASCY2Y WNathan67

    This is good and Bad, What about the Non internet Users and those who dont have a computer or even know how to turn one on. I can see a HUGE Class Action Lawsuit in the works. That supports non – computer users. Watch and see. You exclude the non-computer users and the lower class and you will see a whole new can of worms Open up.
    Boycott ABC Across America — on Facebook
    Nathan

  • Wuvbear

    where are they going to film?   Is ABC going to rent out the studios?   Who will pay the actors salaries?   Who will the sponsors be?
    I don’t think I will watch on line because my pc isn’t fast enough……………its not for me.
    When the shows go off air, that will be it for me.

    also when the shows leave, I will no longer be watching anything on ABC.

  • ATK

    So are they providing the content for free online? Are their going to be commmercials? What website/host?

    Exciting news even though I don’t watch any of these shows. Nice to see a shift like this happening. Hopefully this will lead to the death of cable as I would love for all shows to be made available online as it is a cheap distribution system and much more effective than current cable companies.

  • Mag5hr3d

    I do not think that is a real issue anymore.  A computer and/or its user, need not be chained to a desk

    My computer and 19″ monitor are at one end of my couch.  I can go online to Hulu, select any show, lie back and watch easily enough.  I also have a graphics card with HDMI out to my LG HDTV.  Just go into my computer’s monitor/Nvidia settings and switch over from monitor to TV in three or four mouse clicks.  Of course, you need a proper graphics card and such including those capable of audio.  The only caveat is my computer speakers need to be used and they are at my right side since I can’t set them up otherwise at the moment, but it’s fixable.  So, at the moment, sound comes from the side rather than from the TV.  However, the audio is equal to, if not better than, my TV’s. 

    The picture quality of some online programming/videos is, sometimes, another matter too.

    Not everyone has small monitors either.  If you have at least 19″, you are as good as having a small TV plus consider how they have the computer set up like myself and a lot of people can watch TV easily, if not already having adapted themselves to it.  With any decent monitor or whole, fast enough, system situated on/around a desk, someone could simply switch from their desk to a comfy chair once a show starts and watch it fine.  This is even truer should they be near a TV they can connect to instead.

  • candy

    I am so happy that the viewers of these two soaps stepped up outraged at their television  cancellation .  We are intensely loyal so it should be a grand slam for web-tv as wel,l for us, the viewer who just isn’t interested in more and more “reality”” slop on tv.  We all face the real reality in our day to day so soaps  original” storylines and wonderful characters are welcome and loved!

  • demoncat_4

    good idea for after all  who says that soaps can not still work given how people ways of viewing things is changing even though one will have to sit through some online commercials on prospected park. too bad cbs did not try this idea with guiding light and as the world turns. will see how welll it works for one life and amc.

  • Rose_barnaby

    This is crap–Is this what their Focus Groups told ABC/Disney to do? You couldn’t market the younger demographics on TV you are going to try to do it through the internet? The WEB would have been a great ADDITION to Network/Cable/Satellite in the home BUT–NOT NOT as a stand alone solution. You refused to give both Soaps a fair  fighting chance on TV and now you have basically tied their hands and feet and have thrown them into shark infested waters ABC/Disney–can go to hell really–They should have sold the SOAPS to another network on TV–and if not then they could have bloody well founded a SOAPS station that played all SOAPS–there are enough stations on cable that the fans already pay for.

  • Lady’sMan217

    Ok, so bring back buffy and angel already!! Jonesing here!!!

  • ZB

    Yes, You have that. And I have a laptop i can plug into my TV. That doesn’t make it the norm.

  • Todd

    Honestly, ALL soaps are on borrowed time on TV. I truly believe that within 10 years, all daytime soaps will gone from television.

    I think they did try to find another network but there were no takers. Oprah said her OWN station wasn’t going to get them and that would have been a perfect home.

    This is going to be a huge financial undertaking. Prospect Park is taking on two show that were already losing money. I wouldn’t be surprised if they cut cast and crew to make it more viable. These shows aren’t cheap.

    It will be interesting to see if the show are still being produced a year after the go online.

  • Stela Varga59

    Why do u have to take it of the air? All my children and oltl thats the only time I have to watch tv. I have been watching these soaps from 1973. I love these soap.  I beg of u not to take them off the air.

  • John

    I don’t care!  I care about quality.  If the shows on Hulu are good then I will give them a chance,  if ABC puts something decent on those timeslots then I will give them a chance.  However, if they start to another talk show, another reality show, then I won’t waste my time.  I miss scripted television (yes, yes, reality shows ARE scripted, but you know what I mean). 

    The internet is changing.  ABC and the other networks need to realize that things like “youtube” get more viewers then some basic cable channels.  

  • Lu

    Bring back Guiding Light!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.wubs.net KDMask

    I’m cautious  here…it will bea wonderful thing if the shows look/feel the same,imo. I am wondering how long this is all going to take. With Roku and internet TVs I can see  many people tuning in. They just have to bring the product we want, and in a timely manner.

  • Trevorellsworth

     I have a computer, but no TV. I can’t watch shows on TV…Should I sue??? Your argument is  invalid. Sit down.

  • Trevor

    There is a Soap Channel: Soap Net. I wonder why they didn’t wanna pick them up?

  • Adrian

     Interesting, fascinating stuff.  The only unique question or comment I might have is: Will older ABC episodes be made available online?  I mean, not only eps from the past couple of years but those from the very beginning?  I think there are a lot of long-time fans who might pass on new online content by itself, but if you also include an easy way for them to see Erica Kane at the beginning or watch the Faux-Bo storyline in its entirety…

  • http://twitter.com/ToniGoodman Toni Goodman

    People are a lot more savvy now than you think.  My grandfather (until he had seizures) was pretty damn good with a computer.  If they advertise this enough, you’ll have people wondering how to get this on their television.  My brother worked at Office Depot here in Cincinnati, and he had plenty of customers (and this was about 5 years ago) asking about setting up their computer to the television.  Apparently many people had their computer in their living room as their entertainment center.  Which sounds really awesome.

  • RJ

    Anyone who think this will work out in longer than 6 months  is a fool. The shows are never going to be the same, and fans are not stupid, they will jumps ship and rating will fall.  This is ABC way of throwing away the two shows in a nice way and just saying “good riddance at least we tried”, this is the beginning of  the end. 

  • Ronnie

    Soap Net is going off of the air in January.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    Both Buffy and Angel have been continued..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    lol

  • Weytogoman

    How does trying to attract half of a decreasing audience equal a great thing?

  • Piersjohn

    if they want that soap operas would still be around it is a must that they should look for other ways to promote their shows. online TV is a great way to bring life back to operas since more an more people ae being hooked into it such as the tvhod.com.

  • Lettedriver

    The only fly in the ointment that i can see is if they want to charge for a subscription to continue to keep the soaps alive! When they have been “free” all of these years no one is going to want to pay for them!

  • Mcarman1967

    not that i’m not against online tv but why dosent soap net continue them

  • Cyrthulem

    Soapnnet is owned by Disney which is ending in January 2012..  Disney Junior will be replacing Soapnet.

  • Mcarman1967

    that sucks but what can we do 

  • Sylvie

    Will the soap still be on soap net?

  • Cyrthulem

    Soapnnet is owned by Disney which is ending in January 2012..  Disney Junior will be replacing Soapnet.

  • JHusky3

    Wrong One Life to Live was under budget. Just the sign of the times union busting at its best

  • JHusky3

    Wrong One Life to Live was under budget. Just the sign of the times union busting at its best