In a bombshell development, Prospect Park has revealed that its ongoing legal dispute with ABC has forced it to indefinitely shelve One Life to Live. Prospect Park will instead focus on producing All My Children, which has managed to draw more viewers since its return.
"It's been crazy," Prospect Park chief Kwatinetz, a former talent manager, told the Los Angeles Times. "If I were able to turn back the hands of time, there would be lots of things that we would do differently."
Some of those lessons learned include figuring out what soap viewers want from their soaps -- which apparently did not include the use of obscenities -- and when they want to see it. For decades, televised soaps have allowed storylines to unfold slowly, over months or even years. Prospect Park, however, found that their Internet-based soaps needed to have "crisp story lines with a distinct beginning, middle and end."
"We have to move the stories along faster," AMC and OLTL creator Agnes Nixon told the LA Times. "We have to become part of the viewers' daily routine -- but we haven't managed that yet."
Going into the online incarnation, One Life to Live seemed to have the most momentum: much of the show's cast had signed on to reprise their roles in the Internet version, and OLTL had been ABC's highest-rated soap leading up to its cancellation. When the two series began airing online on Hulu on April 29, though, that changed. All My Children had a higher tune-in rate, and Prospect Park's internal numbers showed that releasing four episodes of both AMC and OLTL each week was forcing some fans to choose between the two shows.
Two weeks after their launch, Kwatinetz made the decision to have just two episodes of AMC and OLTL released each week. In doing so, storylines that would have played out quickly, over a week or two, were now extended over several months. Long-time fans, as can be expected, were not pleased with the scheduling change and let Kwatinetz know.
As both shows' audiences expanded, Prospect Park announced a lawsuit against ABC for the network's decision to kill off several characters that were on loan to them by Prospect Park.
"ABC inexplicably killed off two One Life to Live characters on loan to General Hospital by having their car forced off a cliff," Prospect Park said in its April lawsuit.
ABC has denied any wrongdoing and insists that it acted in good faith.
The two shows hit another speed bump in June when a labor dispute with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees forced both shows to begin an earlier-than-planned hiatus. The conflict was resolved after two weeks.
The hiatus "gave us an opportunity to stop and look at things and see what wasn't working," All My Children's executive producer, Ginger Smith, said.
The first season of One Life to Live wrapped up last month with the broadcast of its 40th episode. All My Children's first season finale was broadcast this week. Both OLTL and All My Children are available for free viewing on Hulu and Prospect Park's web site, TOLN.com, and the shows are available for purchase on Apple's iTunes. Both shows are also wrapping up a so-called "summer fling" on Oprah Winfrey's OWN cable network.
During the ten-week run on OWN, All My Children has averaged about 25% more viewers than its sister soap. During the week of August 26, All My Children averaged 192,250 per episode on OWN. One Life to Live tallied 148,750. No announcement has been made about future seasons of either show being aired on OWN.
Now two years and a reported $10 million into the soap opera business, Kwatinetz calls the learning curve "intense."
"Agnes told me this job wasn't for sissies," Kwatinetz remarked. "If I didn't want to make any mistakes, I would sit back and let other people go figure it out and then just copy them. But then we wouldn't be helping to shape the future of television."
AMC's writing team is currently putting together scripts for the series' second season. Production, which was to originally have resumed last month, is slated to start on October 21, according to a report from Soap Opera Digest.