Online soap producers fight a bubble binge

Online soap producers fight a bubble binge
The cast of the online "One Life to Live." Prospect Park said it would scale back the number of episodes released. (Associated Press)

Prospect Park, the Century City-based entertainment company, in just two weeks has learned a valuable lesson in online viewing behavior.

The production company launched Internet versions of the former ABC soap operas "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" on April 29, figuring loyal fans of the long-running dramas would show up in droves and become addicted once again.

Viewers showed up all right, but they didn't watch the soaps in the manner that Prospect Park had hoped.


"We are posting too many episodes and making it far too challenging for viewers to keep up," Prospect Park partners Jeff Kwatinetz and Rich Frank wrote in a lengthy letter to viewers released Thursday.

"Fans have been binge viewing ... and we feel we have been expecting our audience to dedicate what has turned out to be an excessive amount of time to viewing these shows," the letter read.

The company said it would adjust its schedule and offer fewer episodes. The company's initial release schedule was designed to mirror that of daytime television.  It has been uploading to Hulu four 30-minute episodes of each series each week. 

That volume would add up to a combined total of 104 episodes a year.

But Prospect Park apparently set up an online version of Sophie's choice. Fans have been forced to choose between watching either "All My Children" or "One Life to Live"  -- but they didn't seem to have the capacity to watch both.

When the shows ran on ABC, millions of fans watched both series.

Prospect Park figured it was missing an opportunity to hook viewers on both soaps and, therefore, limiting the size of the shows' audience and the amount of advertising revenue the company could collect.

After reviewing viewership behavior data, Kwatinetz concluded that much of the audience was watching on a single weekend day, and thus, "we are currently asking them to watch five hours of programming to keep pace with our release schedule."

The company plans to scale back, beginning next week. It said it would make available just two new episodes per show per week in addition to a Friday recap show.

A representative of the company denied that the decision to trim episodes was financially driven. ABC canceled the shows because their audiences were dwindling at a time when production costs were increasing, making the shows considerably less profitable for the network.

Prospect Park promised to keep up its "feverish pace of production."

Fresh episodes of "All My Children" will now run on Mondays and Wednesdays.  New episodes of "One Life to Live" will be released on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"We know our most dedicated viewers will be upset," Kwatinetz and Frank wrote. "We apologize to these viewers and ask them to please understand we are trying to ensure our shows succeed and not meet the fate they experienced previously."