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Soap opera fans can rejoice as new episodes of One Life to Live and All My Children start airing online Monday. Two years after ABC (s dis) canceled them, the soaps are coming back to life — but only in digital format, via Hulu and iTunes (s AAPL).
Production company Prospect Park, which licensed the shows from ABC, will run new, 30-minute episodes of each show Monday through Thursday. (Previously, each episode was an hour long and a new one ran each weekday.) On Fridays, there will be a recap of the week. Episodes are available for free streaming on Hulu and Hulu Plus, or can be downloaded from iTunes for $0.99 apiece or $9.99 per month (20 episodes). The free version of Hulu will only make the most recent episodes available, while Hulu Plus will have all of them.
The New York Times calculated that, because production costs are lower (due in part to having shorter and fewer episodes) and because ads on Hulu can be targeted, Prospect Park needs 500,000 streaming viewers to break even on the soaps. By contrast, the shows attracted three million viewers on TV. In addition, Variety noted that Prospect Park has the rights to sell the the shows to U.S. cable and broadcast networks starting in September (where, in an interesting twist, they’d be available a week after they air online) and is also distributing them to international television networks.
Even so, some longtime fans of the shows who are not accustomed to online viewing may be confused about how to find new episodes online. (That theory is borne out by many of the user comments on this paidContent post from January.) “We would hope that all [fans of the shows] would call their friends to make sure they watch them,” Prospect Park cofounder Rich Frank told Soap Opera Digest recently. “The way to ensure that this is going to work, because we’re really totally advertiser-supported, [is] that we’ve got to get the eyeballs to be watching this. They’ve done it before; it’s just a matter of rallying the troops and getting them to watch.”