The people behind The Online Network have taken to the financial papers to garner financial support for their venture. Wall Street Journal's All Things D blog has an in depth article up detailing exactly what it will take for Prospect Park to successfully take All My Children and One Life to Live to the web and other platforms. For starters, Jeff Kwatinetz says they need about $65 million!
An average hour of one of his soaps currently costs ABC around $160,000 to make, which is outrageously cheap for TV and fantastically expensive for the Web. But Kwatinetz says he’s not going to be able to save much money when he moves the shows online — he’ll still be paying the same writers, actors and production staff. Overall, he figures he’ll need around $80 million to produce both shows for a year, and $65 million in hand to start up production.
The article goes on to say Prospect Park feels they only need about 10 percent of the 2.5 million viewers who currently watch ABC Daytime to follow the soaps online in order to make a profit. The production company plans to charge similar rates to advertise on the shows as does Hulu.
May I, a wee little soap blogger, make a suggestion? Why not scrap the concept of attempting to continue churning out five, one-hour episodes a day, 50 weeks out of the year and cut both AMC and OLTL back to 15-minute daily serials?
I applaud Prospect Park's ambition, but perhaps this particular fish is just too big to swallow? Additionally, I believe a huge part of what has eroded viewership for the soap opera genre is all the free time to tell bad, repetitive stories. I gather we'd have a lot less evil doppelgangers, microchips in brains and the like if soap scribes weren't trying to pen fresh stories five-days-a-week for shows that have been on the air since bell bottoms were in the first time. I also think a reduced production schedule just may attract more actors to the genre. Imagine a OLTL arc featuring Shannen Doherty or Heather Locklear giving Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) a (limited) run for her Prada on All My Children.
Both Agnes Nixon and the late Bill Bell have been quoted as saying the beginning of the end for daytime soaps was when greedy network execs forced them to take the shows from 30-minute daily serials to an hour. Back then, one could see the need to expand the insanely popular programs, because viewership showed the demand for them to be increased. However, times have a' changed.
Soap watchers today have 500 channels, smart phones and Facebook competing for their attention spans, while many soap creatives are burned out from trying desperately to keep up. Trust us, we watch their efforts and it ain't pretty (Hello, Maria Arena Bell and Garin Wolf)! Why not start out with shorter broadcasts and smaller casts like in the early days of serialized storytelling on the radio?
If Prospect Park does decide to go forward with keeping the soaps they've licensed at an hour in length, why not run them in seasons? Run a 13-week, telenovela-esque season of All My Children, followed by a second 13-week season of One Life to Live. That way the shows, their writers, directors and actors, would benefit from the same creative breaks as primetime and cable series. Crafty writers could employ game-changing cliffhangers to keep viewers hooked untl the next "season." If this still works for shows like True Blood and Shameless, who says it can't work for daily soaps?
I bet it would be a lot easier to generate a backend via DVD sales for 65 episodes a year, as opposed to 250. I think trying to do the soaps exactly as they are— when exactly how they are got them cancelled— is a bit bass ackwards. What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments!