Binge-watching forces “One Life to Live,” “All My Children” to cut back on new episodes

59 Comments

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 (s AAPL). 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

59 Comments

ajax

Changing episodes to only twice a week is really ridiculous…what are you thinking??

Paula

If these shows are getting millions of views and in the top ten, why do you care how people watch? If they are watching all the episodes as you claim, they are still viewing all the commercials of which there are many. I work during the day. I enjoy watching when I can. Some weeks it is two/three nights a week and some weeks it is all episodes in one night. I don’t find it hard to keep up. It is only 2 1/2 hours/week for me because I only watch OLTL. I never watched AMC. Some people are not fans of both shows. When OLTL was on TV, I did not watch it on TV at its regularly scheduled time anyway. I taped it and watched the 1 hour episodes when I could. My viewing of these tapes varied and was not usually every night. Scaling back like this is only going to hurt the shows. People will stop watching now as they think the shows will be canceled again. What about one 2 hour episode a week and no recap show?

Debbie k

I can’t believe this. “Binge watching”?? Is that what I do when I watch the voice on Fridays instead of Mondays or Tuesdays? Well this should kill those shows again and I thought they were actually really good with the new story lines. I guess I’ll be canceling by Hulu plus subscription be because I can see the writing in the wall.

Becky Killion

My comment is that they ruined One Life to Live trying to get teenagers to watch it. It is horrible. Absolutely horrible. The girl who plays Danny overacts every scene. I can’t watch her. The story lines are ridiculous if there is even a story line. They spend way to much time and this weird disco like bar. Just plain not worth watching. Sorry I used to love the show.

Grama

I was thrilled to see both shows back on. Here in Canada, we got to see them on tv on FXCanada. That was really wonderful while it lasted, and both shows were really interesting and enjoyable. Now FXCanada has stopped showing them. Hulu won’t let Canadians watch online. So far, I haven’t found a way to watch the shows now. I don’t have all the various gadgets required, just a tv and a computer. Please someone, tell me how I can get these shows.

Ammammen

I have watched All My Children since I was five. Now 31 I am happy it is back but sad I can only have 1 hour a week. The story will never progress like this. I am a busy mom and sometimes “Binge watch” on the weekends. It is my escape for a bit. People are happy it’s back but 1 hour a week is not enough. Also, the actors deserve better than that.

melissarmurray

i really enjoyed watching these shows again and kept up with them the weeks they were on !!! i liked All my Children a little better on line but One life to Live on t.v !!! i think the characters should explain more where their families are,we wanted to know from Angie where Frankie and Randi are living ,not just that they are fine and if they have a child and where is Kathy Martin,Dixie and Tad’s daughter. And on One life to Live where are Jessica and her kids ? i used to watch the shows from six to seven at night because i thought you could view them anytme but they are never on,they show the episode from fridays everyday at six. What’s the deal ?

terry morrison

Both soaps should be aired daily, i was upset when Only four shows a week now Only two it wrong. People can watch st s later time i watch at night. We got all excited they were coming back on And they dø this. The shows both have been awesome i LOVE them please go back to at least 4 shows

Emmie

This is very disappointing. It’s not even mentioned on the TOLN website. I finally found out what is going on by stumbling upon this article. I am used to watching my shows, which are already reduced to just 1/2 hour episodes, Monday through Friday. The fact that people are binge watching is nothing new. They did that when the shows were on every day and an hour long – the difference being if you DVR’ed them you could FF through the commercials – with hulu you can’t skip the ads, so they are making money whether folks binge watch or not. PLEASE BRING OUR SHOWS BACK EVERY DAY!!

Kim

Ok so I agree 2 shows a week is not cutting it. Even if I could not watch them I would catch up with them on the weekends so they are still being watched. With that being said what about the veteran actor/actresses? Will they lose pay and leave? Unless they have other acting jobs or just jobs in general to make up for the loss that is the only way I see them being financially stable somewhat. The only actor I saw after AMC was Zach he was on SMASH. Did he give that up to come back to AMC if so that would be sad because SMASH was a hit. I see Adam Chandler is MIA all of a sudden to. Maybe Prospect Park should sell this to OWN Oprah’s network since ABC gave them up.

jojolindsay

Yikes! Got all settled to watch a NEW episode of lAMC…now I have to wait until weds? This sucks. Let people decide how they watch something…why would it matter? the nature of how a soap is written allows people to become hooked without watching ALL the episodes. Without that technique, they would have failed decades ago. Bring it back to 4 a week!!!!!

Pam Dietz

I feel I have been kicked in the teeth again! I’ve been a loyal fan of O.L.T.L. for 35 years and was heart sick when ABC cancelled it. I know Prospect Park and Hulu have tried and 4 hour half hour episodes was better than no episodes, but this two half hour episodes a week isn’t going to work for me. You see, I live in Canada and can’t access Hulu and so I was watching OLTL on FX Canada who has now after 2 whole weeks dropped it altogether. Now, regardless of how I feel about how many episodes how ever many times a week, I “CAN’T” access OLTL anymore. Sure I could download episodes from itunes, but I’m not paying $4.00 for 2 half hour episodes, it’s not worth it and you”re going to find a lot of people aren’t going to find it worth it and stop watching. An hour a week… how do you get into the story, the charactors, the habit, the experience of a soap in an hour a week? I know you don’t want to hear this, but you have to lose A.M.C! That soap is the achor around the neck of OLTL and will pull it under again! OLTL need so be on at least 4 hours a weekin order to establish the habit and if onliners can’t handle a 4 hour binge… then screw them!!! It’s the 5 hour a week fans that made all the soaps and perging us down to one hour a week isn’t going to cut it for us, we will stop watching! And for the love of God whether it online or tv, make OLTL available in Canada again. Sure I can hi-jack an American ip and watch on Hulu, but for an “hour”… it just doesn’t seem worth it to me! And you”re going to see cast leave the soap over this too and after all the effort and hard work, that would be a true
shame!!!

truth

I was against these shows being canceled. I am glad they are back on but the writing sucks. I understand the direction of programming with the younger generation but the new
Over use of sh*t is unnecesary and the blatant disrespect of the young ones with their parents is in poor taste and have turned off a lot of us. As far as Prospect Park and their developments, they must do what they have to. I am grateful to see them back on. I am not concerned with how they do their business. People are binge watching to catch up because fans are now finding out both shows are back on. Perhaps marketing about the shows because I personally went to my granny bingo game and told them so my nana hosts the shows daily. Unfortunately the young storyline is getting OLD VERY QUICKLY.

sandra whitlow

I have been watching both shows over 30 yrs qnd when they were cancelled I was very angry and since they came back I have watched everyday. Now you are going to reduce the shows to just two episodes per show each week. This is the dumbest thing so far. So what if people have to catch up on weekends, atleast they are watching. Isn’t that the whole point. I have really been enjoying the shows , this is just dumb. Put the shows back on! Sounds like to me your just a bunch of tightwads.

David

This makes me very sad. I don’t think watching 4 episodes a week is “challenging” to viewers. If you enjoy a show, it’s an opportunity, not a challenge. If numbers aren’t where they need to be, and there is not enough capital to keep things going only too weeks into the start up, then the decision to re-start was probably premature. I was planning on subscribing to Hulu, not because I needed to, but because I felt it was the right thing to do to watch the show, to help keep some great American television history alive and support the actors who’ve become part of homes throughout the country for 10, 20, 30 even 40 years. But why buy a monthly subscription for 8 episodes a month.

I truly hope this works out, and I’ll definitely continue to watch, but I wonder if these great gaps in episodes will make for successful storylines. THAT will be the challenge for the viewers. I want the 40 year old feuds and loves to continue on.

JK

I ditto “Larry” & “fun”‘s comments. Couldn’t say it better!

marjie

If anyone is interested, Prospect Park is trying to do the right thing in the wrong way,The term Cutting Edge translates as more swearing, more drinking,more changing of characters, & fewer episodes. If they want to keep these great shows on the air, cut the club scenes, which pay EXTRAS no one watches.
Soaps are about Story, Story, Story. And people we care about. Let the veteran actors do what they do best. Have some Solid couples to anchor each show. Jerry ver Dorn & Erika Slezak are Masters of their craft. Scale back on show-casing the Skinny & Shirtless for awhile.
Most viewers watch because their Moms or other family members got them to watch. No one ever said,”Time to binge-watch our shows.” They did say,”Tune in tomorrow. How do you do that? Story,story, story.

Cynical 13

At the end of the day this is just simple economics. Maximize revenue and minimize expenses. The result is a win win for Prospect and a loss for the cast and crew and the fans. Nice going.

fun

“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.

Larry

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.

Rhonda Vanice

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

Kimberly Marsch

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)

Angela

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.

Susan

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.

Jen

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

Skater Boy

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

Muddy Mudskipper

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.

bbiiaannccaa

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

Scott

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.

lynn

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

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