Saturday, April 20, 2013

Prospect Park sues ABC over online soaps

If the fate of ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live’ was a soap opera – I would guess that the back from the dead story wasn’t going very well.

Earlier this week, Prospect Park sued ABC for $25 million over their licensing agreement with the network over the cancelled soaps.

For those that need a quick recap, Prospect Park licensed the rights to the two soaps when ABC announced their cancellation almost two years back. At first, Prospect Park was trying to get another network to pick up the shows.

When that failed, the production company also failed to secure the financing they needed to bring the soaps to the air – and the project was considered dead in the water.

When that happened, ABC brought several OLTL actors on board – as their Llanview counterparts – to offer something to heartbroken fans.

Then, several months ago, Prospect Park announced they were bringing the shows back online – and
for streaming on Hulu.

Suddenly, things started to get interesting between the two sides. Prospect Park wanted the three characters – who had been on ‘General Hospital’ for the past year – back and they wanted the original actors to move online.

The problem with this was that none of the actors wanted to return to OLTL. I know fans have conspiracy theories about why this is, but the truth is, you get more exposure on a network, all three actors had moved to Los Angeles (including their families) and they didn’t want to move back to the East Coast, and they got more money on GH.

The two sides tried to hammer out a deal. Essentially, Roger Howarth agreed to do double duty on the two shows – a move that would allow his character Todd Manning to move between both locales. Michael Easton and Kristen Alderson, though, were adamant they did not want to return to OLTL.

Talks between the sides broke down – and all three characters were forced out of Port Charles. A few weeks ago, ABC announced that the three actors would be returning to GH as new characters. This allowed OLTL to have their characters back – but not the actors that made them popular.

Whew, I know, it’s a lot.

Prospect Park is arguing that they only lent the characters to ABC on a limited basis – and with the stipulation that they have input into storylines. They claim that ABC ignored that part of the agreement for a year – and they’re specifically balking at GH killing off Cole and Hope.

Here’s the thing, I obviously haven’t seen the contract between the two sides – so I can’t get into any specifics. If ABC agreed to let Prospect Park have control over the OLTL characters and then didn’t do it – then they are in breach of contract.

However, if that wasn’t in writing, then I don’t really think Prospect Park has a leg to stand on.

The argument that Cole and Hope were killed off is kind of a lame one. This is a soap people, bringing characters back from the dead is what they do. Also, that happened at the very beginning of the characters’ run. Why is Prospect Park just complaining now? This happened a year ago.

My take – and this is just my take – is that Prospect Park is setting itself up to be the victim when they fail with the online versions that are set to debut on April 29.

The new format of the shows are vastly different from what soap fans are used to (and there is very little buzz associated with the launch). Not only are the number of episodes limited, but so are the casts. For example, AMC has Zach, but no Kendall. OLTL has Viki and Natalie, but no Jessica.

When you compound that with the fact that a lot of the characters have been recast with cheaper and younger “talent” – and I think you’re looking at alienating a lot of longtime fans.

I think a lot of older soap fans – and that is the bulk of the soap opera audience – aren’t going to take the time to tune in to soaps online. Maybe, if OLTL had just went off the air, things might be different.

The simple fact of the matter is, though, that people have lived without OLTL and AMC for more than a year. They’ve learned they can live without the soaps – and it’s not part of their everyday viewing experience anymore.

I do think some people will tune in online – maybe even a solid number for the debut – but I expect the numbers to be fairly dismal after that.

Prospect Park paid a lot of money for the licensing rights to AMC and OLTL. They do not own those
shows now, though. They’re essentially borrowing them. This lawsuit could essentially be a way to drum up interest in the online soaps, too. You know, any publicity is good publicity and all that?

ABC does not have to extend a leasing agreement with Prospect Park – and it seems Prospect Park is shooting itself in the foot by filing this lawsuit. To me, that signifies they are acknowledging that the online versions probably are going to be a failure.

As someone with the time – and means – to watch both AMC and OLTL online, I actually have no interest in tuning into either. For background, I’ve watched both soaps since I was a kid – and I was especially attached to OLTL.

Still, though, I said my goodbyes to both soaps.

Prospect Park has an uphill battle – and it’s one I’m pretty sure they’ll lose. If they have concrete evidence of ABC actively trying to make sure they fail – which doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me on a monetary front – then why didn’t they make it public before?

I will watch the ongoing legal battle unfold with a great deal of interest – and not just because I watch a lot of court cases in real life.

What fans don’t seem to understand is that this lawsuit could be years and years down the road. By the time it’s settled, Prospect Park’s licensing agreement with ABC will probably be over and both online soaps will be gone.

Heck, at the rate things are going, GH could be gone, too, by that point.

I know fans of OLTL and AMC are siding with Prospect Park – but I honestly can’t see how Prospect Park expects to win this court battle.

I guess we’ll just all have to wait and see.

As it stands, AMC and OLTL return to the Internet on April 29 and Easton, Howarth and Alderson return to GH as new characters (rumors suggest a Morley descendant, a Cassidine and a Serena Baldwin recast respectively) in May.

And they said soap operas were dying.

What do you think? Who is in the wrong and who is in the right in the ABC and Prospect Park battle?


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