ABC Soaps Get Second Life to Live -- Online

Venerable TV Genre May Have to Find Its Way in Digital Media

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"One Life To Live" has one more life to live, but it will be one played out in the digital space, not on TV.

In a sign of how one of TV's most hallowed but ailing formats may live out its declining years, ABC confirmed Thursday a report in the New York Post that it had licensed "One Life to Live" as well as "All My Children," two long-running soaps that are slated for cancellation, to production company Prospect Park, which will in turn run both programs online and in formats designed for such emerging technology as internet-enabled TV sets.

Under terms of the multi-year deal, Prospect Park must run the programs as they are viewed on the living-room screen today: They must be 60 minutes in length and the production values must be maintained.

For ABC, the move allows the network to derive some revenue from programs that had became too costly to maintain in their current form. As more women have joined the workforce and as technology gave rise to new competition from cable and the web, the soap bubble has more or less popped. Across the broadcast-television spectrum, the shows, which once peppered the daytime-TV landscape, are dying off. NBC is down to showing just one, "Days of Our Lives," while CBS in recent years has canceled "Guiding Light" and "As The World Turns."

On TV going forward, only ABC's "General Hospital," CBS's "The Young & The Restless" and "The Bold & The Beautiful" and NBC's "Days" are expected to survive -- and the rise of a new daytime talk show from Katie Couric that would depend on airing on ABC's local stations could put "General Hospital" on life support.

Prospect Park, run by longtime Hollywood executives Jeffrey Kwatinetz and former Disney Studios head Rich Frank, is of the mindset that the soaps still have an audience that will follow them to new viewing windows.

"Technology changes the way the public can and will view television shows," the two said in a statement. "The driving force in making the switch and attracting new audiences is to have outstanding programs that people want to watch."

One marketer that might view the move with interest is Hoover, the vacuum-cleaner company that in April said it would pull all of its ad dollars from ABC to protest the network's decision to cancel them. As it turns out, Hoover's support of ABC's soaps is minuscule -- the company spent just $353,000 on ABC in 2010, according to Kantar Media. But that money might go a lot further online.

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