Prospect Park recently surprised fans of One Life to Live and All My Children with the announcement that the per week episodes were being slashed in half from four to two. Prospect Park states this decision was based on the fact that fans were getting behind on the episodes already. They wanted fans to be able to keep up to date on the episodes and the two episode a week format would accommodate. This choice was made because fans were binge viewing the shows instead of watching daily. You can read the full press release here.
Now if the two episode a week formula keeps these soaps alive, I am perfectly okay with it. If Prospect Park found that it was more cost effective to produce less episodes, I can understand. However the explanation we were given seems confusing. Why would binge viewing be a bad thing for anytime television? They wanted us to be able to watch the shows anytime right? It seems restricting viewership to “day of” isn’t any different than how television is watch. It was my understanding that the new online medium was suppose to throw that notion out the window.
The viewer solution to the getting behind on a show is typically marathoning many episodes in one sitting. As I stated in a previous article, I watched All My Children in this manner on the weekend. Why not release the episodes in a block instead? Let viewers watch them all at once and give them time to watch them again. This concept worked successfully for Netflix with the online show House Of Cards.
These soaps are designed differently than House Of Cards though. They are going to have much more episodes. They are also very character driven with less plot. They need fans to get attached to the characters and get in the habit of watching the shows. I’m not sure if two hours a week will accomplish this. If there are gaps between episodes, then viewers may forget about the shows. Prospect Park wants us to fill the gaps with the opposite show if we are only watching one of the soaps but I’m not sure that will happen.
Viewers who do marathon viewings of the shows will have to set aside less time to do this with the two episodes a week so this could be a good thing for them. I am curious though as to whether the plot structure of these shows would work for the hour/two episodes a week. Although the pace of the shows are faster and it feels that a lot happens in just one episode, the actual plots themselves don’t particularly unfold fast. Elements dangle in the background awhile before reveal. The way these stories unfold may have to be adjusted.
While Prospect Park states this decision is based on viewership patterns, there is a lingering feeling that money may be the bigger issue. Prospect Park did not just revive One Life to Live and All My Children because they are major soap fans and thought it would be fun. They wanted to create online programming that would have a huge fan following and generate revenue for them. This change in episode count raises some concerns about the profitability of these shows. It is of course better to reduce the number of episodes if that is what it takes to keep the shows in production.
I get the impression that Prospect Park may have also made the same mistake that ABC Daytime did with Katie. It seems they may have spent too much upfront making it difficult for the shows to recoup the costs. Both All My Children and One Life to Live have been on Hulu’s top ten list since the debuted. I don’t know what that means numbers wise but they are generating viewer traffic for Hulu. However it seems that traffic may not be enough for profit to be made.
It appears the real culprit in this situation may be just doing too much in too little time. Reviving the shows was a huge undertaking. The shows had to start from scratch which isn’t a bad thing when looking to give shows a facelift but it had to have cost a lot. With a deadline set, they also had to put in a lot of work to pull off these relaunches. All My Children actress Jill Larson paints a good picture of this in her facebook posting which can be read here.
One Life to Live and All My Children are pretty good shows but are they as good as they could be?Taking a few steps back and a few deep breaths might not be a bad thing. However, I’m not sure I agree with Prospect Park’s decision to reduce the episodes so quickly. I think there are other options that would have been better such as releasing the episodes in blocks or just keeping them available on Hulu for free longer. I don’t know if the two episode a week plan will have the effect that Prospect Park is looking for. We’ll all have to anxiously watch, wait, and see what happens.