Prospect Park, the studio that revived “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” as online-only serials, announced it will move to a twice-per-week schedule for new episodes of the sudsers starting May 30 instead of four.
In a letter sent to fans Thursday, studio topper Jeff Kwatinetz and partner Rich Frank explained that they are making the change because “we are posting too many episodes and making it far too challenging for viewers to keep up.”
“When it comes to online viewing, most of us are just trying to find time to watch series comprised of 13 to 22 episodes a season — so asking viewers to assign time for over 100 episodes per show is a daunting task,” the execs wrote.
The duo did not disclose viewing numbers except to say “many millions of views” have been logged since the skeins’ April 29 bow. “AMC” (cast pictured above) and “OLTL” are available free to watch on Hulu as well as Prospect Park’s TheOnlineNetwork website, and episodes are available ad-free on iTunes for 99 cents each.
In an interview, Kwatinetz said the traditional broadcast model of five new episodes of a soap per week didn’t work online. “Honestly, when we decided to do the shows we just based it on how ABC did the shows before, instead of thinking about how shows are watched online,” he said.
Kwatinetz said he feared viewers would abandon the shows at the four-per-week level, adding that Prospect Park received complaints from fans that they couldn’t keep up. The soaps’ online viewers are watching them the way they watch primetime dramas, he said — that is, they watch every episode, whereas traditional daytime soaps viewers are accustomed to skipping a couple of segments in a given week.
Prospect Park acquired the rights to the shows from ABC in 2011, after the Alphabet net axed the long-running daytime staples. After hitting stumbling blocks with union negotiations and lining up financing, studio began shooting in February at a soundstage in Stamford, Conn.
Last month, Prospect Park sued ABC, alleging breach of contract after three characters from “OLTL” — which were loaned for a time to Alphabet’s “General Hospital” — were killed off in storylines on “GH.”
Under the previous sked, fresh half-hour episodes of “AMC” and “OLTL” appeared Monday through Thursday, with a weekly recap show on Friday. As of Monday, May 20, “AMC” will now run on Mondays and Wednesdays, and “OLTL” will post Tuesdays and Thursdays with a single behind-the-scenes show called “More” on Fridays.
“We know our most dedicated viewers will be upset as they would probably prefer more shows to less (we personally wish there were more episodes of our favorite shows; we would love 50 episodes a year of ‘Homeland,’ ‘Mad Men’ or ‘The Simpsons’),” Kwatinetz and Frank said. However, they added, “We need to devise a model that works for all viewers and follows how they want, and are actually watching, online.”
The revised online release cycle also will let Prospect Park try to catch its breath on the production end, although execs said the pace will still be “frenetic.” Studio is shooting new episodes through mid-June, then taking an eight-week hiatus (while writing and editing continue) before the shows go back into production in August.
According to the Prospect Park execs, when the shows aired on ABC they shared a large percentage of their viewers — but that’s not happening with the online versions. In addition, while traditional TV viewers watched only two to three episodes per week and picked up storylines with the current episode, “our viewers seem to primarily start with the first episode and then continue forward episode by episode,” Kwatinetz and Frank wrote.
“Like with primetime serialized dramas as opposed to the traditional slower pacing of daytime, people feel lost if they miss an episode,” the execs said.
Advertisers currently running in the online sudsers include Nissan, Neutrogena, Virginia Tourism Corp. and Zyrtec. Under Prospect Park’s deal with Hulu, the Hulu ad sales force sells inventory for the shows.