It was revealed on Thursday that SoapClassics.com, a division of BVDM Distribution, was releasing a four-disc collection of 20 full AS THE WORLD TURNS episodes. This is the first time full episodes of a daytime soap opera have become available on DVD in this way. Reaction from readers of We Love Soaps--on our website, Twitter, Facebook and in emails--has been overwhelmingly positive. We landed the first interview with Mark Yates, President of SoapClassics.com, who tells us more about the project, how it came to be, and what lies ahead.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Recently WorldScreen featured out an article about MIPCOM about possible international distribution for the P&G soaps. Is there anything you can say about that?
Mark Yates: We're getting interest from all regions of the world, both on the home video side and broadcast/cable/satellite side. We've only had the product since July so our first order was to assess inventory and get things logistically in control. This was our first MIP and we had a tremendous response and we're getting interest from all regions in licensing, broadcast and satellite deals.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: The first question after people saw that article was, "Why are they focusing on distributing the show everywhere but the United States?"
Mark Yates: Right. That's not for me to address. We're focused on the home video market here in the United States and I can tell you what we have coming up in the pipeline. We don't have a North American broadcaster interested at the moment. So our focus is on home video distribution and eventually, within the first quarter of 2012, which we haven't told anybody about yet, will be a live online streaming site.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Can you clarify who's involved and who's doing what with this project and what the structure is?
Mark Yates: BVDM Distribution is the distributor which licenses from Telenext Media, which is the agency for Procter & Gamble. I know that sounds convoluted but it's actually pretty simple. There's three companies involved--Procter & Gamble owns it and produced it for many years as you know; Telenext Media is their agency. And Telenext Media has hired BVDM Distribution to become the international distributor across all media. BVDM Distribution is a partner company with Broadway Video.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So it's not like the mysterious Prospect Park situation. They don't have a website yet so we get calls every day from fans who think 'we' are Prospect Park.
Mark Yates: Once we launch the site tonight, there's a direct link on there for people to give us feedback and they can email us. Every bit of feedback we get is great. I think it would be interesting if you could clarify really who is what and what's going on here. I've heard people say, "Procter & Gamble is releasing it," and no they're not. Procter & Gamble is the license holder. Telenext gets completely lost in the mix. And now, because we're a partner company of Broadway Video, some people think it's them, but we're really not Broadway Video. We are an affiliate of them. The company distributing this is BVDM Distribution.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What other P&G shows are you associated with?
Mark Yates: We are the distributor of the Procter & Gamble collection--AS THE WORLD TURNS, GUIDING LIGHT, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, ANOTHER WORLD, THE EDGE OF NIGHT and TEXAS. We know the next project we want to launch is the GUIDING LIGHT version of what we just did with AS THE WORLD TURNS. You can break the news that the next planned release is 20 classic episodes of GUIDING LIGHT.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: As I was walking through the hallways with thousands of tapes everywhere, it made me realize how complicated this entire process is. There are these big gawky tapes, and you have to locate the right episodes, then encode them and so much more. Some people think you can flip a switch and just put everything online overnight not realizing how long it takes.
Mark Yates: Let everyone know how many months we've spent working on this and the amount of time that goes into research and production. We accelerated all that wanting it to be a big Christmas item this year. I think it would be awesome if you can give people an insider view on what goes into making this happen.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I will write more on this experience in a future article.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And all these shows are 1979 forward?
Mark Yates: Yes. We originally thought we only had 1986 on GUIDING LIGHT and that was actually misquoted in the MIPCOM story. We do go back to September 1979 for both shows. Obviously TEXAS we have the whole thing. ANOTHER WORLD and SEARCH FOR TOMORROW haven't been inventoried yet because we've been so focused on this so I don't know exactly what we have for those shows.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: A few years ago, P&G had a Classic Soap Channel on AOL.
Mark Yates: Yes, we did all the encoding. We were the technical facility for that.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did that help you now in any way using the work that was done then?
Mark Yates: It did. We were able to preserve a good portion of the library back then and inventory it. Everything that went online on the YouTube Channel and AOL was preserved back then. That gave us a nice jump start on getting the material prepared for future distribution. There's still plenty left to go.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think this is going to sell really well. If it does, will that help speed up the process or have you put more resources on it.
Mark Yates: Absolutely. How well this sells determines how many and how quickly the future releases are. This has not been done before.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: This is the first full episode collection of daytime soap episodes.
Mark Yates: It is shocking to me that it has taken this long for someone to do it. This is a real litmus test. I would love to let the fans know that how this goes is going to dictate how quickly we release and how much we release in the coming months.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Is the focus going to be DVDs for a while?
Mark Yates: No. In the first quarter of 2012 we will launch online streaming.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: For all the shows?
Mark Yates: I would say AS THE WORLD TURNS first, then looking at GUIDING LIGHT later in the year.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So why were you interested in doing this? There's a mainstream perception that daytime soaps are dying. We recently did a 25 Biggest Blunders countdown recently and called out soaps for not marketing enough merchandise as one of them. What made you see the potential in this?
Mark Yates: Honestly, it was a personal hunch in me. I remember growing up watching them with my mom, watching them in college with my friends, and I think my demographic and other demographics out there have a very strong attachment to the history of them and the current. I also thought they were the original reality shows. If you look at what went on in one week versus what happens in a reality show in a season... And I think they have cultural significance and historical significance. My personal line is, "This is the original reality TV." I feel that the networks don't have interest in a still large group of fans.
The group of fans may not be large enough to keep networks interested, but yet there's still plenty of fans interested in this product both as home video and online, and interested in keeping it preserved and available for future generations. That's a little soap boxy, but I get excited about it!
EDITOR'S NOTE: The SoapClassics.com website will be up and running later night. Order a copy for your personal collection and many more as the perfect gifts for family and friends. Like Mark, I also grew up watching with family, so my Christmas decisions just got a little easier. ATWT DVDs for everyone!
Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He's made acting appearances in web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE and consulted on numerous other indie soaps. He currently serves as a producer on THE BAY and is executive producer on the indie short film May Mercy Lie, currently making the rounds on the festival circuit. He recently made appearances on CTV's NATIONAL NEWS and Radio New Zealand and wrote an essay in the popular academic book, "The Survival of the Soap Opera."