EXCLUSIVE: This is potential very bad news for soap fans who feel thankful this Thanksgiving that canceled ABC series One Life To Live and All My Children may continue online. That now may not be happening. It was considered a bold and risky move when Rich Frank & Jeff Kwatinetz’s Prospect Park in July made a licensing deal with ABC to keep OLTL and AMC alive for online distribution. The transfer from broadcast TV to the Web proved far more difficult than anyone anticipated. I hear that Prospect Park self-financed extensive research and its principals held hundreds of meetings with potential investors and business partners for their Online Network, which was originally slated to launch in the first quarter of 2012. (The latest plan has been for Once Life To Live to go on first, with All My Children put on hold.) They also explored selling a potential second window for the two soaps to cable networks but couldn’t land a buyer. And in a sign of potential guild hurdles, Prospect Park in late July issued a statement that it was “in the process of working out the essential terms of our proposed collective bargaining agreements with the appropriate guilds and unions, which we must do prior to firming up deals with above- and below-the-line talent.” I hear that those negotiations proved difficult, mostly because there is no existing template for a broadcast program transitioning online. Word is that the guilds have been looking to hold OLTL and AMC to broadcast terms, which is somewhat understandable as the Prospect Park-ABC deal calls for the two series to “continue to be delivered with the same quality and in the same format and length.” But shows produced on broadcast terms are impossible to support with online vs. TV advertising. (ABC, which makes extra money on its soaps from off-network sales to SoapNet and foreign territories, claimed it was still losing money on OLTL and AMC, leading to their cancellation.) To make the target launch date, the soap writers hired by Prospect Park were supposed to start work earlier this month but they haven’t as there is no deal with the WGA. And all pacts with actors from OLTL and AMC that Prospect Park made over the past few months were contingent on clearances by the unions. Additionally, I’ve learned of potential issues with the online network’s tech partners. I hear that Prospect Park principals are still trying to find a last-minute solution to keep the soap online venture going but feel pressed into a corner after exhausting every possible avenue and may decide to pull the plug as soon as today.
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