When soap operas “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” moved online, it wasn’t clear how fans would watch them. It turns out that most viewers are binge-watching — so the soaps’ production company is cutting back on the number of new episodes each week.

All My Children One Life To Live

The original idea behind soap operas was that daily episodes would keep viewers hooked and advertisers happy. But few people have time to devote to mid-day TV any more, and as TV viewing shifts online, the model is changing.

It’s been just two and a half weeks weeks since popular soap operas One Life to Live and All My Children were reborn as online-only shows — but production company Prospect Park has already decided to cut back on the number of new episodes released online each week. The change in schedule, the company claims, is due to the fact that viewers are “binge-watching” instead of watching one episode a day, and this makes it too hard for them to keep up.

Starting on April 29, Prospect Park — which licensed the soaps from ABC — ran new, 30-minute episodes of each show every Monday through Thursday, followed by a recap on Friday. The shows are available on Hulu and Hulu Plus, or can be downloaded from iTunes. They’ve received “millions” of views, Prospect Park cofounders Rich Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz wrote in a letter to fans (PDF) this week, and have “consistently been in the top ten shows viewed on Hulu.”

But most viewers aren’t watching these shows the way they traditionally watched soap operas on TV. Instead, as with other TV shows online, “our shows are primarily consumed on different days than when they originally air,” Frank and Kwatinetz wrote:

“Primarily, fans have been binge viewing or watching on demand, and as a result, 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. (As an example, for the substantial audience only watching on the weekends, we are currently asking them to watch five hours of programming to keep pace with our release schedule).”

In addition, viewers aren’t adhering to traditional soap-watching habits. When the shows were on ABC, “viewers watched only 2-3 episodes on average a week and picked up with whichever day’s episode it was.” By contrast, online viewers “seem to primarily start with the first episode and then continue forward episode by episode…yet starting from the beginning with the amount of episodes we are releasing is asking too much for viewers who need to catch up.”

Prospect Park is also concerned by the fact that, when the shows aired on ABC, viewers often watched both — but online things are different:

“The majority of our viewers are watching one show or the other, not both, and they aren’t viewing the shows when they did before. Part of the reason for choosing between the shows may be that the largest viewing takes place either between 12 PM and 1 PM (when people generally can only fit one episode during lunch time) or between 5 PM and 7 PM (when the vast majority of competing shows are a half hour long). We are finding that asking most people to regularly watch more than a half hour per day online seems to be too much.”

Overall, Frank and Kwatinetz conclude that “When it comes to online viewing, most of us are just trying to find time to watch series comprised of 13 to 22 episodes a season — so asking viewers to assign time for over 100 episodes per show is a daunting task.”

So starting Monday, May 20, the schedules will change. Each soap will now air just two new episodes a week: New episodes of All My Children will air online on Mondays and Wednesdays, and new episodes of One Life to Live will air on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a recap episode on Friday. “Because Hulu agrees with our findings,” the founders wrote, “for the meantime they will keep all of our episodes on Hulu.com for free to give viewers the opportunity to find us and catch up.”

Frank and Kwatinetz acknowledge that “our most dedicated viewers will be upset,” but “we need to devise a model that works for all viewers and follows how they want, and are actually watching, online” in order to ensure that the shows “not meet the fate they experienced previously.” The

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  1. what a bummer! I love both soaps and have not missed A DAY! They have been easy to follow, and really really good. I do not know how we can follow a story @ only one hour a week! Of course we are at your mercy Prospect Park! LV

  2. As consumers across all demos adapt to digital platforms, content producers will have to change how and how often they produce content. In a world with infinite shelf space, it is not about quantity but quality and engagement.

  3. bbiiaannccaa Friday, May 17, 2013

    They should air both soaps everyday. This is crazy already.

  4. Muddy Mudskipper Friday, May 17, 2013

    Oh, and by the way, we’ll be reducing the pay of the cast and crew correspondingly. Not that we’re doing it for that reason or anything.

  5. AMC still needs Susan Lucci and Michael E Knight. I wish someone could explain how these two shows are suppose to stay alive and are people taking pay cuts. How much does ?Erika Slezak make? So if there are two shows a week and say 10 shows a month and you were making $1000 an episode but you are in about 60% of the episodes your annual salary would be about $72,000 a year or that of a teacher. One wonders who is footing the bill

  6. I,m affraid their going to lose the actors if they do this. Their already getting much less pay, and now with only two episodes a week, they wont be needing them that much. I think this is a bad idea. I love both these soaps, and have been watching both of them at 5 in the morning. I wish they would change their minds, so we wont have to cancel them again. Wake up people, we all complained and boycotted abc since they were cancelled on the network, and now that we got them back, your not watching them? Do it early in the morning, its only 1 hour for both of them, and then we wont lose them again. Very easy to do. If we lose them, again, then it will be the fans fault. Be smart, and dont let that happen. I,m loving both these soaps, so I will continue watching them. I hope you do too.All my children, is actually better then it has been for years. One life to live, great as ever.

    1. Their and your are possessive, you’re and they’re are contractions of you are and they are.

  7. Kimberly Marsch Saturday, May 18, 2013

    I think this idea may not be a good one. I watch both soaps every day, and if I miss one, it’s the recap, which I watch on the weekend. We CANNOT lose the veteran, actors! They are the show. The new kids are cool, but they will be different shows if they change it up. Let people binge watch. Let them do whatever they want. If we lose them again… I believe it will be disastrous for both Prospect Park AND Hulu. I only pay for Hulu for these two soaps. (I know I can watch it for free on Hulu, but there are more options with the paid version)

    1. I got news for PP. fans have been binge-watching as they put it – or at least I have been for the past three decades. I have a day job so I have to record my soaps. Rarely if ever did I get a chance to watch it daily. I always marathoned them – or rather, “binge watched” them. I’m a functioning, multi-tasking, super busy person (who isn’t nowadays?) who still managed to fit in 5 full hours of soap opera a week. This line of crap about adjusting to the viewer is hogwash and is covering up the real & much bigger issue of funding. The number of people on the payroll for these productons is astonmical – hence why ABC shit canned them. At the very least PP should have picked only one soap to concentrate on and market it on every free medium who would show it. Increased traffic to websites means more exposure for various other products and services. This translates to advertising sponsorship to PP, in other words – funding. PP has done a poor job of marketing these soaps. And you have to spend money to make money – more episodes, not less. It is likely it will progress at a rate so slow now that even if I were willing to pay to watch it – it won’t likely hold my interest. I cannot see how they can possibly invest any thing of quality in terms of plot or character development in such short stints. For one thing the reduced hours for the entire cast & crew will most certainly have a negative outcome. They’ve just now lost a lot of Canadian viewers. Next will be the American viewers – once they have to pay to watch them, all bets are off. I hate to say it of my beloved AMC, but it appears cancellation is on the horizon. I’m just so deflated & devastated that I got my hopes up for a quality resurrection of my show only to be utterly dissapointed in this latest development. Unless they pull a rabbit out of their hat and get their shit together in the marketing dept – I’m afraid the whole venture is doomed.

  8. Rhonda Vanice Saturday, May 18, 2013

    I watch both soaps been loyal forever but I work all day so I have to binge watch on weekends it should only matter that we are watching them why should it matter how

  9. I’m in agreement with the sentiments expressed by everyone thus far. The remarks and reasoning given here by Frank and Kwatinetz register an 11 on my B.S. meter… just say you want to cut your costs and screw the soaps, and don’t blame viewers in what is one of the strangest explanations I’ve ever heard. When OLTL was on broadcast TV, I would DVR it till the weekend and then enjoy. Coming back online and being able to stream whenever, wherever I want is awesome. I am watching, what do you care what time I watch? It’s not like it only has advertising at a certain time of the day, so where’s the loss for you? Can you imagine if Netflix tried doing this? Stupid move guys, and really stupid explanation.

  10. “Binge-watching” is the way people watch tv now and that is the best way to watch it. Their reasoning is stupid. This is a failure already and they dont know what to do about it. If you give less episodes then there will be less reason to watch it. There is to much going on to cover it in 2 episodes a week. Plus if some one is paying for hulu plus to watch it on a tablet or what ever there will be less of a reason to do so.

    1. I would rather watch them on tv

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