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Prospect Park Blames Fans for Scale Back

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On April 29, 2013 Prospect Park Productions finally launched cancelled ABC daytime serials One Life To Live and All My Children online, after working so hard to bring them back to a new life on the Internet. Fans were ecstatic to see their extended families back after an almost two-year absence.  Though fans already had free access on Hulu, they were urged to sign up for Hulu Plus at $7.99 per month to access the shows via mobile devices as well as to stream to their televisions.

Thousands flooded Hulu, anxious to view their favorite soaps as they had for the last 40+ years on TV. And Canadian soap fans were happy to learn Prospect Park made an agreement with FX Canada to air the shows on cable television so they wouldn’t miss out either, as many feared they would.

Fast forward to Thursday May 16, 2013 when in a press release Prospect Park announced plans to provide new episodes of All My Children and One Life To Live only twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, not the originally promised four. The Online Network (TOLN) cited fans’ viewing habits as the rationale for the change: 

“Primarily, fans have been binge viewing or watching on
demand, and as a result, we feel we have been expecting our
audience to dedicate what has turned out to be an excessive
amount of time to viewing these shows.”

Did they just say fans watch on demand? It’s on Hulu; of course it’s on demand!  Prospect Park maintains (after only three weeks) that four episodes a week make it too difficult for fans to keep up.  Excuse me?  Not only does this make no sense as soap fans are used to tuning in five days a week, but how could TOLN possibly have hard analytics after only a few weeks of data?

An even bigger shocker rocked fans in Canada when on Friday, May 17 it was learned FX Canada will no longer stream OLTL or AMC, and Canadian fans must purchase the shows via iTunes Canada. Many are outraged by this latest development. However it appears those afraid these shows will disappear forever are okay with whatever they get, willing to accept anything at this point.  Prospect Park has not only failed to deliver what it promised but tried to put the blame on fans…again!! Is it just me or have we heard this tune once before??

It’s funny how most fans seem to have selective memory with regard to Prospect Park. Let’s go back to November 2011, shall we? Fans were thrilled to learn that both serials would return to production, not miss a beat, in January 2012 thanks to Prospect Park.  But the day before Thanksgiving, word spread like wildfire on Twitter that the whole deal fell through, and fans were devastated! Not to mention the fact that the cast and crews of both shows had no idea what happened.

Luckily for Prospect Park, fans refused to lose, and launched numerous positive campaigns to show there was a demand for daytime scripted serials! Thanks to successful campaigns, Executive Producers Jeff Kwatinez and Rich Frank drafted a business plan with hard statistics of the demand for our soaps in hand, which enabled them secure financial backing by summers’ end. On January 4, 2013 Agnes Nixon posted on the SWAN (Stand With Agnes Nixon) Facebook page both OLTL and AMC would go online! Fans rejoiced!

Everyone rallied and did what we needed to adjust to the online arena with some fans ponying up $7.99 per month to Hulu for all access. Prospect Park’s entire marketing of the reboots is “Anytime. Anywhere. It’s not daytime, it’s anytime,” which was a major selling point to the soap community in accepting the online versions. Now both shows are scaled back after only three weeks of new episodes citing viewership habits as the reason?

I ask you, how can any type of analysis be accurate in such a short period of time? Prospect Park would have to wait at least six months, take the stats from the last six months of OLTL/AMC on ABC and compare them to the new viewership on Hulu to gain any type of insight as to whether or not the new model will work.

I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Christopher John, a leader in the soap movement posted this on Facebook Thursday, “Like everyone, I’m sure, I am still watching the soaps. My issue continues to be that I suspect fans are being given explanations that aren’t necessarily based on facts. Quite frankly, anyone that has had to do research full well knows that data collected after months of study is considered anecdotal – at best. Therefore, I highly doubt that any numbers collected within two weeks was the deciding factor for reducing the number of shows per week.”  

He further added,“I cannot say this enough times. This cannot be blamed on fans. “Anytime, anywhere.” “It’s no longer daytime, it’s anytime.” “Binge eating is bad. Binge watching is encouraged.” ALL tag lines developed by PP. Fans adjusted their viewing habits, joined the online viewing revolution, and then were told that the expectation was that they’d view the shows as they did when the shows were on network tv. I want to reiterate: NOT the fault of the fans. Fans complied. PP failed to understand the ramifications of “binging” and the effect on ad revenues.” 

I realize measurement of online analytics differ from networks, however the mere suggestion that fans are unable to handle the four day a week schedule is preposterous! The target audience is soap fans who keep up with five episodes a week on network soaps. The statement is ludicrous!  The whole idea of having these shows online is so audiences can catch them whenever they want, anytime their schedules allow! This is a huge red flag that more is going on behind the scenes!

While I agree OLTL/AMC should not have been cancelled by ABC and this is a new venture, the business model relied on revenue from advertising, which has not garnered expected projected profit margins. Instead of citing this a failure on its part, Prospect Park is using fans as the scapegoat, pointing to our viewing habits as the culprit!  The only thing we are guilty of is continuing to blindly support Prospect Park, knowing what the casts, crews and fans have gone through in the past year and a half!

 How long do we have to  stick our heads in the sand and just go  with the flow, eat what lies they are  shoving down our throats? Not only that,  but I highly doubt this has anything to do  with our viewing habits. At the end of the  day it’s all about money! That’s what the  underlying purpose is, disguised as saving the soap genre and bringing back these beloved shows for the fans. Think about it.

Many are watching to see if this new venture will be profitable and how are they attempting this? Through advertisements and promoting Hulu Plus at $7.99 per month, as well as selling each episode on iTunes for $.99. Now, after only three weeks Canadians can only access via purchasing them on iTunes. I have no doubt in my mind this was the plan all along.  Get fans hooked in the first three weeks, then reduce the schedule and cancel FX Canada streaming to bring in more revenue.

Another glaring problem with the launch was gaining a new audience.  Instead of creating a few episodes to reel in new viewers knowing that Hulu has over ten million who watch via their website, they banked on the same amount of viewers they had while on ABC.  

Utilizing the same business model for network soap operas isn’t going to work online simply because the structure of web serials and its’ advertising differs greatly.  This new format is still in its infancy and those already within the online community are still trying to figure out how to monetize their shows. Prospect Park needs to attract a new younger audience who are anxious to tune in every day. If you’re not a soap viewer and never watched OLTL/AMC, the marketing plan in place does nothing to generate new fans.  Nor have they delivered a uniquely different type of serial to hook viewers that normally wouldn’t even consider watching a soap opera. That was the key to making it a success- capitalizing on not only the 40+ year histories of both shows, but also the dedicated soap audience already in place and taking the time to rope in a new audience.

Rumors are that Prospect Park was allotted $88,000 per episode to produce OLTL/AMC, and they have gone over budget.  Although I have yet to substantiate this, it is my opinion, based on everything that has occurred in the past few days this most likely is the case.   

In my opinion this stupid lawsuit Prospect Park filed against ABC for $25 million is because they need the money!  Let’s take a look at the facts.  Just ten days prior to the launch of the reboots Prospect Park filed a lawsuit against ABC for Breach of Contract with regards to One Life To Live characters leased to General Hospital.  The complaint alleged that ABC attempted to thwart the online reboots by refusing to advertise on the network, although they had some of the cast from AMC and OLTL on The View the week prior to the launch. In addition they maintained proof of this alleged sabotage is demonstrated by General Hospital’s use of two leased OLTL characters who were unceremoniously killed off and use of another character not leased to them in a storyline plot.  

The complaint further alleged Prospect Park had every intention of utilizing characters John McBain played by Michael Easton, Todd Manning played by Roger Howarth and Star Manning played by Kristen Alderson for the OLTL reboot.  However interestingly, of the three only Roger Howarth was asked to return.  The lawsuit also claims ABC lied to the trio when they signed contracts in February 2012.  I’d like to point out Prospect Park had no idea they would be able to get financial backing for the online versions until August of 2012. This lawsuit was nothing but a way for them to put the blame on someone else because they knew the online reboots were on thin ice from the get go. 

Prospect Park played dirty when the courts issued an order that Michael Easton, Kris Alderson and Roger Howarth were not allowed on the set of General Hospital after February 8, 2013.  On January 31, 2013 Michael Easton posted this on his Facebook page:

“I heard a rumor of some lovely people who were going to stop by the studio for a certain riff raff’s birthday. Some others who wanted to deliver a cake. Even more wonderful folks who wanted to send cards and treats and I want you to know I am incredibly humbled by these gestures but unfortunately I will not be around to enjoy them. I’ve been informed, that due to some ongoing legal this and that, I cannot be at “General Hospital” after February 8th and since I know many of you go to great trouble to do something special, I just don’t want to see anybody’s efforts go to waste (especially the lovely person who always sneaks in the fine Irish Whiskey). If it’s not too bold, may I suggest a donation to The American Cancer Society instead. Then some good will have come out of this……Miss you guys already. Michael”

Prospect Park also told ABC use of the character of Todd Manning on General Hospital could only air when not on OLTL. I understand Prospect Park owns the rights to these characters, however if they truly cared about supporting the genre, keeping our soaps alive and doing the reboots for the fans, there were other ways they could have dealt with it.  They chose not to.

I personally know there were many within the soap production arena that kept telling Prospect Park they needed to slow down to ensure these shows would be a success. Kwatinez and Frank ignored bringing those with knowledge and experience into the productions simply because the executives didn’t care enough or want to create something groundbreaking, different and unique.  It’s always been about the money.  

Ultimately the cast, crew and fans of these daytime serials were played. They knew fans were desperate and Prospect Park needed us. We did our jobs, stuck by them but they failed to deliver what was promised!  All should be outraged that we’ve been asked to trust and support them, pay $7.99/mo or $.99 per episode to watch OLTL/AMC. After all that now we have to swallow whatever they give us without any type of culpability? Here you’re asking me to give you my hard-earned money with nothing promised in return? Really?

Instead of releasing new episodes twice a week, why not make it just once a week as a primetime soap? Maybe that’s what they need to do to keep these shows in production. Not too long ago I had a conversation with a fan that argued other scripted online serials were not considered soap operas because they weren’t on four or five days a week. Guess what? Neither are these shows!  

They’ve taken these amazing, beautiful, iconic, legendary shows created by Agnes Nixon’s blood, sweat and tears and completely shattered what they formerly were! Where’s the upset?  The outrage?  The frustration of being manipulated?  Everyone was so happy just to see our favorites back we all blindly hopped on board.  Initially I was and remain cautiously optimistic due to Prospect Park’s past track record, which has once again proven to be less than credible.  

As I’ve said numerous times, it’s hard to bring soaps of this scale and structure to the online only arena- that’s the bottom line!  In the end I will and do urge all fans to continue to support AMC/OLTL/DOOL/BandB/YandR and GH because we love the soap genre and want them to survive.  However, I refuse believe another word that comes from Prospect Park or trust them. Everyone should be very skeptical.

Special thanks to the casts and crews of All My Children and One Life To Live for their talents, hard work, dedication and giving fans some hope! We appreciate you and will always be here to support the soap genre, regardless of this new development. My heart goes out to the cast, crew and fans of OLTL & AMC- none of us should be jerked around like this!!

We will discuss this on Wednesday, May 22 at 10pm (ET) on RHeart Radio, the Fan’s Voice.

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About Chrissy Piccolo

Chrissy Piccolo the founder of RHeart Network, the Fan's Voice, the #1 Fan Connection Destination, supporting daytime, prime-time and online scripted digital content. Currently the host of RHeart Radio, the Fan's Voice, as well as Storytellers On The Net, and Sleepy Hollow Addicts on Blogtalk radio. In addition to writing for Blogcritics, she is also an author on Examiner.com. Web Series Today and currently co-hosts with Barbara Barnett and Jerome Wetzel on 'Let's Talk TV' on Blogtalk. She is also working on adapting her her first novel in The Kirsten Kelly Chronicles series into a webseries. Passionate about keeping scripted content alive, she continues to be an advocate for all forms. When she’s not working managing several websites or writing, one of her hobbies is investigating the paranormal with other enthusiasts and searching out possible cases through historic sites in the Northwest. Chrissy believes in being a positive influence in such a vast medium as the Internet.
  • Edna Jackson Barefoot

    I have & will continue to watch OLTL & AMC wherever they appear. I have not been able to trust anyone that deals with any network or computer company regarding my soaps since ABC screwed us by cancelling OLTL & AMC. People at the top of any business are interested more in money than anything else. They sit in their offices or board rooms, collect a paycheck above anyone else in the company, & think of ways to make more money no matter what others care about. People that do the work make a lot less than the execs who make the decision to make THEM more money. I am & will always be angry with ABC & if PP screws us over I will Boycott them. Thank you Chrissy for the article. It informed me of things I had not heard.