Monday, April 29, A Big Day In Soap Opera History

Early returns on the new ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE TO LIVE would indicate that Prospect Park has two new hits on their hands. By early afternoon, today's premiere episodes were already #1 and #2 on Hulu, the official online distributor of the shows. This is before we reached the afternoon TV schedule "comfort zone" for soaps, the time of day when millions are accustomed to viewing, the time when they previously aired. Meanwhile, the shows have risen on the iTunes "Top TV Episodes" chart throughout the day (currently at #5 and #6 and rising).

There has also been more press than usual for a daily soap opera (although the mainstream press has caught on, over the past two years, to the fact that soap opera reporting garners hits for your website). Any coverage is, of course, an auspicious indicator, but pieces published on the web are especially helpful for AMC and OLTL. Why? Because they can link directly to Hulu or iTunes, and directly to a particular episode, even. It's as if, during a promotional appearance by Y&R on THE TALK, engaged viewers could choose to jump immediately to a new episode of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and start watching.

THR published a story on Monday about Prospect Park's effort to make these soaps pioneers in the switch from old to new media. The company has been innovative not just in the distribution model, but also in how they have been promoting it, using a robust mix of old and new media. The traditional part of the plan has included the purchase of print ads in Parade, TV Guide and US Weekly.
There has also been a national campaign of radio advertising along with on-air promotions and contests on pop stations like Z100 in New York City with prizes including a walk-on role in one of the soap operas, set visits, and trips to New York for a screening of the soaps by I Heart Radio and a red carpet premiere on the NYU campus held earlier this week.

They have also bought time on cable TV and digital channels. In addition, they have generated publicity by sending stars from the soaps (many of whom were on the ABC version) to appear on Entertainment Tonight, Wendy Williams, Access Hollywood and elsewhere. The marketing plan has also seen ad time bought on TV networks although they ran into resistance from some.
The real innovations have gone beyond the traditional however. The show's marketing has expanded into new media, social networking and grassroots marketing, which has included in person visits to night clubs, college coffee shops, book stores, Laundromats, restaurants, beauty parlors and elsewhere, where branded t-shirts, postcards and other materials have been handed out.

“I believe we’re the first premium television launching online in an ad-supported way,” says Kwatinetz. “HBO, Showtime and Netflix have done it but we believe we’re the first mainstream content that is advertiser based and online to do this.”

Kassie DePaiva and Cady McClain are blogging for Parade starting today. Other TOLN stars appeared on VH1's BIG MORNING BUZZ on Monday, and Tuc Watkins appeared on MARIE and THE CHEW. Erika Slezak and Thorsten Kaye chatted with local TV stations around the country.

As regular readers understand, today is an historic day. Many of us are feeling just a little bit emotional. For years after the loss of GUIDING LIGHT and AS THE WORLD TURNS, it seemed the mainstream media would only speak of daily soaps in the context of a boilerplate, superficial, "daytime is dead" article. That attitude, of course, contributed to the depression of the genre. There was a vicious circle of stale, conventional wisdom born of lazy reporting.

Then AMC and OLTL were both canceled. The mainstream media indulged itself in a grotesque orgy of mock eulogies. GENERAL HOSPITAL was next, it was mis-reported. "Soaps are dead", we were told, again and again, even during the Daytime Emmys--an event created in their honor. Even after Prospect Park announced their daring, yet elegant, rescue plan, the momentum remained with the morbid mainstream. And no, it didn't help when plans for the return were postponed abruptly.

The soap community didn't know what to think, we were at a loss, not very long ago. Watch THE CHEW? For many of us, that was never going to happen, based purely on principle. Watch THE REVOLUTION? Oh, HELL no! No one could watch that tripe, principled or not...

And we didn't watch it. And it was canceled. And no one cried, no one cared, no one rallied for its return. The mere thought of a rally in honor of that nonsense seems ridiculous. And yet, at the same time, we still expected the grass-roots SAVE OUR SOAPS movement to continue, months, and then years, later.

Something started to feel different. Frons had left, THE REVOLUTION had been canceled, GH had been renewed, and even the Nurses Ball was returning. The eulogies for the death of our genre had long petered out. The ratings-crash ambulance-chasers had moved on. But somehow, the remaining four network daytime dramas remained on-the-air... and they were fine, and people still loved 'em. And hey, wait a second, doesn't Prospect Park still have the rights to my ONE LIFE TO LIVE and my ALL MY CHILDREN? What if they weren't quite dead and buried yet, after all? Maybe they were just dormant for awhile? Was it too much to hope for?

Not at all. Triumphantly, today, the whole world learned that instead of a coffin, OLTL and AMC had spent the past year or two in a chrysalis. We know this to be an indisputable fact because today, two beautiful butterflies emerged. And furthermore, the success of AMC and OLTL is so striking, that it seems it may be rubbing off on their TV counterparts. #BoldandBeautiful was trending today, and more than one person tweeted to us their interest in checking back in on a soap opera they used to watch. Doesn't it now seem likely that the success of these two new beauties will create interest in re-launching other canceled daytime soaps, or even creating new ones?

Over the past five years, we've seen a 72 year old soap get the ax on April Fools Day, and a 54 year old drama get put out to pasture by a network that had just sorta lost interest. And, of course, two more beloved, 40+ year old soaps also got canceled--and on the very same day! It became a regular thing, to have a source of joy in our day-to-day life, trusted for generations, not just taken away, but transformed into a source of frustration and anger. It was never supposed to be like that. But we got used to it.

But we haven't seen a day like this in a long time. Filled with hope, enthusiasm, success! A day that feels universally positive and beaming with possibility. I predict that April 29, 2013 will go down in television history as the day My Stories began their move to The Web, and most of all, as the day that all those reports, about the soap opera's death, were proven, once and for all, to have been greatly exaggerated.

RELATED:
- Watch ONE LIFE TO LIVE Online
- Watch ALL MY CHILDREN Online
- ALL MY CHILDREN Premiere Red Carpet Interviews On WE LOVE SOAPS TV
- ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Robin Strasser, Corbin Bleu & Thom Racina Plus Alex McCord & Colleen Zenk On WE LOVE SOAPS TV
- AMC & OLTL News Roundup
- Prospect Park: 'Our Competition Isn't GENERAL HOSPITAL. It’s The Primetime Soaps On Hulu'
- ALL MY CHILDREN's Darnell Williams Guest Bartends On WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE
- ONE LIFE TO LIVE: The Stamford Interviews (April 2013)

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 has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps, worked as a producer on the first two seasons of Emmy-nominated THE BAY, and is executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals. He also appeared in FRANCOPRHENIA and the documentary SOAP LIFE in 2012.

12 comments:

  1. What a great article. It is indeed an historic and happy day for soap fans!

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  2. ***Applause!!!!*** Beautiful, Roger -- absolutely beautiful!

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  3. Wonderful! This brought a tear to my eye. This is a new day, and it's so fabulous to be standing here!

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  4. Great news! But let's not count the chickens before they hatch.

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  5. Wonderful article! We soap fans are a tenacious, emotional group. The characters on soaps are like our friends and family. I started watching Guiding Light (The Guiding Light back then) and Search for Tomorrow when I was just 4 years old. I saw those characters every day for decades, during childhood, teenage years and adulthood. I knew them longer than I knew most of my friends in real life. I watched them celebrate Xmas and Thanksgiving with their families at the same time I celebrated with mine. This is a special and unique brand of entertainment. I am so grateful to PP for giving the continuing drama the revitalization and renewal that it so truly deserved

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  6. Wonderful article. This day means something to those of us who love Soaps and I hope it is an anniversary we will mark for many years to come!

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  7. Thank you so much for such a brilliantly written,impassioned article. You spoke for all of us overjoyed by the online return of AMC and OLTL! Viva our stories!

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  8. Great Article, Roger!

    Brian :-)

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  9. YES! Most definitely a historic day! I was lucky enough to go to the premiere...but I still cried after watching these shows in my own home on my laptop. We did it! Now to make sure they find a second showing on cable....

    And thank you Roger, for keeping us informed instead of letting this story die (like some other news outlets did)!

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  10. Great article.Took out Hulu Plus and I watched twice I loved them so much!

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