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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

History Is Made As Television Production Hits The Net....

Ever since ABC canceled beloved daytime dramas All My Children and One Life To Live fans began their relentless quest to get them back into production.  Monday April 29, 2013 their dream finally came to fruition as Prospect Park, who purchased both serials from ABC, finally unveiled the much anticipated online reboots exclusively on Hulu making an historic moment in web content history.

The road has been one a long one, fraught with enough drama behind-the-scenes as on screen.  Ex-ABC Executives Jeff Kwatinez and Rich Frank initially failed to accomplish their mission when plans to hit the web arena fell through with the announcement made the day before Thanksgiving, November 2011.  All involved were in complete shock, but Kwatinez and Frank did not give up.  The Executive Producers put together a business plan, then spent last summer shopping it around until they found funding.

Meanwhile fans continued to fight for their soaps, launching campaigns including thanking sponsors who advertise during the remaining network daytime serials General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, The Young & the Restless and The Bold & the Beautiful.  Sponsors were amazed at the positive campaign, surprised to learn that soap fans were responsible for it.  Unbeknownst to fans at the time, they played an integral role in creating the data for Kwatinez and Frank to clearly demonstrate to investors soaps were still in great demand.  In another twist and mitigating factor, General Hospital that was literally on the brink of cancellation, proved that if you give fans what they want they will come!  Once the initial reboot efforts were stalled, the duo tasked at the helm Executive Producer Frank Valentini and Head Writer Ron Carlivati took over the reigns at General Hospital and worked their magic!  Thankfully, Vikki Dummer who was appointed ABC Daytime President after Brian Frons, has allowed Valentini and Carlivati to do what they can to ensure the iconic serial continues. The duo had specific plans for GH and thanks to their efforts, ratings are up 45% from last year with a 2.8 share in the all important 18-34 women demographic.  It continues to climb as fan favorites including Genie Francis, Finola Hughes, Jack Wagner, Ian Buchanan, Jackie Zeman and others were once again put in the forefront.   All of this played a part in the return of OLTL and AMC online.

In addition, General Hospitall just celebrated their 50th Anniversary, The Young & the Restless their 40th Anniversary, The Bold & the Beautiful their 25th Anniversary and Nov. 8 Days of Our Lives turns 48, truly making 2013 the year of soaps! With all the attention on daytime again, it is clear that soaps are in great demand, are here to stay and now all eyes are watching the transition from network television to the Net.  In the 1940's many doubted this new technology called television and never dreamed it would be the next wave in entertainment.  Over 70 years later, the Internet is what television was to radio with many in the entertainment industry looking to bring back the creative that has been lost to greed.  In its' infancy, this new way of storytelling is slowly being recognized for the goldmine it is- freedom with no restrictions and the sky's the limit.  Question is for networks, production companies and those already in the web arena, is it profitable?  Is it quantifiable? Can the creative remain if networks enter the arena?

Prospect Park is embarking on answering these questions.  They have made a deal with Hulu to exclusively stream new 30 minute episodes of All My Children and One Life To Live 4 days a week, with a recap on Fridays.  Those wanting to have the option of watching it on their televisions must sign up for Hulu Plus for $7.99/month which allows access via all mobile devices including smart phones, iPads, Notebooks, XBox, etc...  For those with iTunes accounts, episodes are available for .99 cents each.  Many Canadian fans were happy to learn they can stream the new episodes via FX Canada, another exclusive deal with Prospect Park.    Analytics will play an important role in the coming months to quantify the demand, as well as profits. If this works, will the remaining network daytime serials also make the jump to the web?  Will network mentality change the canvass and freedom on the Net?  It all remains to be seen.

Unfortunately there are other problems that have cropped up that could affect the overall outcome of what the future holds for the newly launched reboots.  In January it was reported that Prospect Park wanted the OLTL characters John McBain, Todd and Star Manning back in Llanview, though they'd been deeply integrated into the General Hospital canvass with each character involved in major storylines, as well as romances.  Prospect Park obtained an injunction effectively forbidding actors Michael Easton and Kris Alderson to be at General Hospital's studio after February 8, though the actors themselves are on contract with ABC.  Confirmation that neither Easton nor Alderson were returning to Llanview broke in March, finally answering the question as to whether they'd be involved in the relaunch.

April 19, 2013, just 10 days away from the relaunch, it was reported that Prospect Park is suing ABC for Breach of Contract with regards to One Life To Live characters leased to General Hospital during the year Kwatinez and Frank worked to get financial backers.  The complaint alleges among other things, that ABC has attempted to thwart the success of the online reboots refusing to advertise, though actors from both OLTL and AMC are slated to appear on ABC's The View.  Additionally they maintain proof of ABC's plot against the reboots is clearly demonstrated by the fact two of the leased OLTL characters were unceremoniously killed off and they utilized another character not leased to them in a storyline plot.  Another allegation is that ABC is refusing to release URL's onelifetolive.com and allmychildren.com, which automatically go to the ABC website. The complaint further alleges Prospect Park had every intention of utilizing the popular actors in the reboots.  However, interestingly Roger Howarth was the only one of the 3 asked to return and in January 2012 when the trio were signed on to General Hospital, they did not have financial backers for the reboots, nor did they know they would secure it until late summer 2012.  The tug of war continued when Prospect Park refused to allow the character Todd Manning to be on General Hospital at the same time he is on One Life To Live, so ABC finally made the decision not to fight to keep the characters, but will bring the coveted actors back to General Hospital as new ones in an effort to move forward with some resolution.

On April 23, 2013 ABC responded to Prospect Park's lawsuit via Soap Opera Digest, who posted this statement from the network:

      "ABC remains very supportive of the online launch of both 'One Life To Live' and 'All My   
     Children'.  With respect to Prospect Park's lawsuit, we believe the claims are baseless and we 
     will defend them vigorously in court and not the press."

ABC has a new Daytime President who is a soap fan herself, interested in keeping the genre alive. Since Vikki Dummer has taken over, they've done everything within their power to keep General Hospital on their network.  By utilizing Valentini and Carlivati's knowledge of the show, their talents, showcasing it in multiple media outlets including receiving honors at the Paley Center, and celebrating its' 50th Anniversary giving the cast, crew and fans the royal treatment, in my opinion the claims that they are serial killers alleged within the lawsuit are unsubstantiated.

What will happen next is anybody's guess, but I encourage fans to let the lawyers duke it out in court and continue to support our soaps.

For now fans are rejoicing, happy to see their favorite extended families back on their screens again.  This soap fan remains positive and hopeful that the Internet will continue to be a place were freedom and creative control reigns.

*RHeart Radio will take a look at the new episodes of All My Children & One Life To Live Wednesday, May 3rd at 10pm (ET), so join the conversation! What do you think of the relaunch? 

Taking fan's calls:  (646) 200-0145  RHeart Radio's History Is Made...

Congratulations to the casts and crews of All My Children and One Life To Live!  
Welcome home!  Fans are behind you 2000% and always will be!


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