Fans of daytime soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live got a dose of bad news today, as the production company that had hoped to bring those shows online said it was abandoning those plans. Prospect Park, which had hoped to revive the shows after their runs on ABC ended, made the decision after it was unable to reach an agreement with guilds necessary to restart production of the series, and after it was unable to secure financing necessary to produce the shows in an economically viable fashion.
Just five months ago, Prospect Park announced ambitious plans to take over the production of the two canceled daytime soaps and bring them online instead. The belief was that the cheaper distribution costs associated with running an online series could provide more favorable economics than were necessary for broadcasting on-air.
But the company ran into problems in securing deals necessary with the guilds and creating a financial model that would allow it to profitably operate an online-only business. Prospect Park issued the following statement along with its announcement:
“[W]e always knew it would be an uphill battle to create something historical, [sic] and unfortunately we couldn’t ultimately secure the backing and clear all the hurdles in time. We believe we exhausted all reasonable options apparent to us, but despite enormous personal, as well as financial cost to ourselves, we failed to find a solution.”
In the end, the fact that Prospect Park wasn’t able to come up with the financing necessary to make the plan work might not be too surprising. After all, the company was trying to produce TV-quality content, but within the financial constraints of the web series world. Prospect Park Co-Founder Jeff Kwatinetz told AllThingsD earlier this month the company would need up to $80 million to produce a year’s worth of episodes for the two canceled series, which is well above even the most ambitious web-only projects. While the shows averaged about 2.5 million viewers on broadcast TV, there’s no guarantee that audience would translate online, which makes the economics of such a venture a bit risky.
The failed experiment may throw some cold water on others looking to online distribution as a way to build new programming models or to save canceled shows. While the online channel has recently emerged as one possible avenue for continuing the life of a TV series — check out Netflix’s deal to bring Arrested Development back from the dead as one example — it’s clear the opportunities for online-only support are still few and far between. Hopefully that will change soon, however, which would be a positive for both content creators and fans alike.