Tuesday, December 6, 2011

TIMELINE: The Rise and Fall of Prospect Park, or, The Martyrdom of ALL MY CHILDREN & ONE LIFE TO LIVE

Admit it. Only six months ago, the phrase "Prospect Park" conjured images of trees and picnics and not much else. Today, it's practically a synonym for "cryptic corporation" or even "broken dreams." Mysterious, elusive, at times even inscrutable, the company (and its temporary role as soap savior) never quite felt 100% real.

As we reflect on the ups and downs of 2011, Prospect Park's shadow looms large over the daytime drama landscape. On the one hand, they cajoled millions of fans into seriously considering watching their most treasured soaps on the web, and that is surely progress of some sort. On the other hand, we cannot forgive them for corrupting the final weeks of both ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE TO LIVE. They have stolen our hopes for a sense of closure as we mourn two fallen icons of soap opera history.

What happened? In the following timeline, We Love Soaps pieces together the rise and fall of Prospect Park. Sometimes we still wonder, "Did that just happen?" It definitely did, but the next question is harder to answer: why?

"While we are excited about our new shows and the shift in our business, I can't help but recognize how bittersweet the change is," said Brian Frons, President, Daytime, Disney ABC/Television Group. "We are taking this bold step to expand our business because viewers are looking for different types of programming these days. They are telling us there is room for informative, authentic and fun shows that are relatable, offer a wide variety of opinions and focus on 'real life' takeaways."

May 17 Soaps Fans Rally at Lincoln Center Outside ABC Upfronts
Fans rally in support of daytime soap operas in front of Lincoln Center in New York City. Colleen Zenk, Ilene Kristen and Mimi Torchin are among the attendees along with over 50 soap fans who turned out on a cool, rainy day. SoapFansUnited.com organized the gathering.

July 6 The New York Post breaks the story that Prospect Park has licensed AMC/OLTL
Sources said the daily dramas will pick up where they left off on a new, as-yet-unnamed, TV-focused online network once the soaps finish their four-decade run on ABC.

July 7 ABC Confirms AMC/OLTL Licensed to Prospect Park
“We are privileged to continue the legacy of two of the greatest programs to air on daytime television, and are committed to delivering the storylines, characters and quality that audiences have come to love for over 40 years. ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE TO LIVE are television icons, and we are looking forward to providing anytime, anywhere viewing to their loyal community of millions,” said Frank and Kwatinetz.

August 30 ALL MY CHILDREN tapes final episode
Susan Lucci: "Last day of shooting here at AMC..doesn't seem real. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all our passionate viewers. Love you. Susan..."

September 4 Susan Lucci Rips Brian Frons In New Paperback Version Of Her Memoir: I watched Brian Frons' decisions destroy the production of our show
"An iconic show was losing out to greed ... If Brian Frons could show his bosses that he could save the network 40 percent ... he could keep his job even if the rest of us lost ours," she writes, referencing the decision to go with a cheaper show -- food talk show THE CHEW -- in the place of the classic soap. "I watched Brian Frons' decisions destroy the production of our show and the lives of people on both sides of the country."

September 6 PROSPECT PARK: Four Actors Sign On For Web Version Of ONE LIFE TO LIVE - Erika Slezak, Kassie DePaiva, Michael Easton & Ted King
Deadline said she "tried to gouge the producers for more money while also asking to work fewer hours and get a commitment for a primetime series."

In retrospect, Deadline seemed like one of the few tools Prospect Park used to communicate (via anonymous sources). Lucci denied these rumors saying she was negotiating but never heard from PP again after September 8.

September 15 Cameron Mathison says he and others at ALL MY CHILDREN approached by Prospect Park
“I have been given permission to announce that I and others from ALL MY CHILDREN have been approached by the company, Prospect Park, who bought AMC with the intention to move it online,” Mathison said. “Just as soaps were very pivotal in the transition from radio to television, they’ll be right in the thick of things again in the transition from television to the internet.”

September 16 Frank Valentini Named VP Serial Dramas for Prospect Park, Will Continue as EP of ONE LIFE TO LIVE
“Frank’s successful track record both creatively and produce-orially with ONE LIFE TO LIVE has been stellar and we are honored that he has also agreed to take on more responsibilities at our new network,” Kwatinetz and Frank said.

September 19 Cameron Mathison & Lindsay Hartley Sign With Prospect Park's ALL MY CHILDREN
Cameron Mathison (Ryan Lavery) and Lindsay Hartley (Dr. Cara Castillo Martin) have agreed to deals to join the company’s new production of ALL MY CHILDREN. This marks the first confirmation of cast members since Prospect Park began planning for the production to live on the new online network beyond its final televised date on ABC this week.

September 23 ABC airs final ALL MY CHILDREN episode
"I have a life back in New York," said Rebecca Budig. "I will say that I think that Prospect Park is going to turn the show around and make it great. I believe they’re going to make it a success. I’m actually very excited to see what they do with it. They’re really smart, dedicated, and passionate about it, and not to say that ABC wasn’t, but Prospect Park is going to breathe new energy into the show. I have met with Prospect Park and we are still talking."

September 27 Prospect Park Names THE Online Network, or TOLN, Future Home Of ALL MY CHILDREN, ONE LIFE TO LIVE Starting January 2012
"We are creating TOLN to conveniently deliver fans of quality television long form programming anytime and anywhere," Prospect Park founders Rich Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz said in a statement. "With broadband availability in 70 percent of U.S. households and the proliferation of Internet-enabled televisions, DVRs and wireless devices, ultimately we believe that online distribution provides the best platform to access 30- and 60-minute entertainment content. The viewer response to the shows we have licensed has been tremendous, and we have much more in development to appeal to a broad audience base."

September 30 THE Online Network: Ron Carlivati Stays With ONE LIFE TO LIVE; Archer, Missal, Trishcitta, VerDorn Sign On
Pending a final agreement with AFTRA, additional deals are in place for cast members Melissa Archer (Natalie Buchanan Banks), Kelley Missal (Danielle Rayburn), Sean Ringgold (Shaun Evans), Andrew Trischitta (Jack Manning) and Jerry VerDorn (Clint Buchanan) to join previously announced cast including Ted King, Michael Easton, Kassie DePaiva and Erika Slezak.

October 4 Brian Frons Promotes CHEW Creator to Vice President, Programming & Development, ABC Daytime
Veteran television producer Randall Barone has been named vice president, Programming & Development, ABC Daytime, it was announced today by Brian Frons, president, Daytime, Disney/ABC Television Group, to whom he will report.

October 6 Prospect Park's Jeff Kwatinetz: ALL MY CHILDREN, ONE LIFE TO LIVE To Be Streamed On Web (TOLN), Then On-Demand, Then Cable Channel
The Online Network is intended to be financed by Prospect Park, which Mr. Kwatinetz said was profitable, and outside partners. He does not yet have all of those investors lined up — he won’t say how much money he is seeking — but independent investment bankers who have been briefed on Mr. Kwatinetz’s plans said there was strong interest.

October 7 The Online Network & Universal Music Group Team Up To Bring "Music, Ecommerce & Artist Participation" to ALL MY CHILDREN & ONE LIFE TO LIVE
In a joint statement Mr. Kwatinetz and Mr. Frank said, "As we continue to develop programming for our online network, we are taking every facet of production into consideration to create a premium product for our viewers. Previously these programs have not focused on, or had limited contemporary music and artist involvement, and through UMG we can deliver fans from around the world access to some of the world's most popular music and artists all leading to better production, storylines and program experience."

October 21 Darnell Williams Signs On To Continue With ALL MY CHILDREN
According to Lindsay Hartley on Twitter: "Hello everyone! Pp update . Darnell Williams has officially signed on!! More to come xo"

October 31 Brian Frons 'Thrilled' to Give ONE LIFE TO LIVE Time Slot to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, Dr. Tiffanie Davis Henry
In what appeared to be another attempt to punch-up ONE LIFE TO LIVE's replacement, THE REVOLUTION, Brian Frons has re-jiggered the cast to contain an obstetrician/gynecologist and a psychotherapist.

November 3 PROSPECT PARK: The Online Network's Pitch to Investors & the Profitability of ONE LIFE TO LIVE, ALL MY CHILDREN
Prospect Park doesn't have the money yet. In a nutshell, every episode will continue to cost $160,000, whether on TV or on TOLN, leading to the need for $80 million to produce both soaps for a year. Kwatinetz wants $65 million in hand to start off. He doesn't have it. We can probably infer from this point, by itself, that we won't be seeing any new episodes in January 2012 after all.

November 10 Prospect Park Putting ALL MY CHILDREN On Hold For A Few Months?
Prospect Park's planned 2012 online revival of ALL MY CHILDREN following its September exit from ABC is expected to be delayed by at least a few months.

November 18 ONE LIFE TO LIVE tapes its final episode
@robinstrasser (Robin Strasser): My heart feels this IS Black-est Friday. My mind-confused by rumors about Prospect Park. My spirit is proud of being part of OLTL's history.

November 23 SUSPENDED: Prospect Park Announces Suspension Of Effort To Bring ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE TO LIVE Online
"After five months of negotiations with various guilds, hundreds of presentations to potential financial and technology partners, and a hope that we could pioneer a new network for the future, it is with great disappointment that we are suspending our aspirations to revive ONE LIFE TO LIVE and ALL MY CHILDREN via online distribution. It is now becoming clear that mounting issues make our ability to meet our deadlines to get OLTL on the air in a reasonable time period following its January 13, 2012 ABC finale impossible."

November 23 AFTRA: Prospect Park Has Not Responded For The Past Month
"Despite initial progress in our negotiations with Prospect Park toward resolving a fair agreement to cover the performers appearing on these programs, we were perplexed and disappointed that for the past month Prospect Park has not responded to our repeated inquiries to resume those discussions. We now conclude from the press reports that Prospect Park faced other challenges unrelated to our negotiations, which prevented continuation of those discussions."

November 23 Writers Guild of America West: Had Been Close To A "Fair Deal"
"We were disappointed to learn that Prospect Park's financing fell through. Prior to the end of last week, we were close to a fair deal for the writers," a spokesman for the WGA West said in a statement.

November 28 ABC sends out press release promoting THE REVOLUTION
"ABC Daytime kicks off the New Year with the highly anticipated, one-hour daily talk show, THE REVOLUTION, set to premiere Monday, January 16 at 2:00 p.m., ET. THE REVOLUTION features a stellar 'dream team' of experts including Ty Pennington, Tim Gunn, Harley Pasternak, Dr. Jennifer Ashton and Dr. Tiffanie Davis Henry, who will each provide life changing tips and essential tools to motivate viewers and transform all areas of their lives from the inside out."

November 29 Prospect Park Announces They Are Producing First Tyler Shields Film
The film follows a pack of feral teenage boys who choose the wrong girl to be the victim of their final "initiation." As it turns out, they didn't pick her -- she picked them.

December 1 SHAKE-UP: Frank Valentini & Ron Carlivati Named Exec Producer & Head Writer of GENERAL HOSPITAL
“Frank and Ron’s creativity, passion and outstanding leadership will be a welcome addition to the cast and crew, as well as viewers and longtime fans,” said Frons.

December 2 OUT: Grim Reaper of Soaps Brian Frons Leaves ABC Disney (Fired?); Scythe Passed to Unscripted Advocate Vicki Dummer
The Disney/ABC Television Group today announced the formation of Times Square Studios, an integrated current entertainment programming and development division, following the announcement that Brian Frons, president, Daytime, Disney/ABC Television Group, will depart the Company at the end of his contract in January 2012. Through that date Mr. Frons will assist in transitioning to the new structure and will be available to provide counsel to the management team.

December 5 Ice Cube Developing Drama Series With Prospect Park
Produced by Ice Cube's Cube Vision with Jeff Kwatinetz's Prospect Park, the Friday star would appear as a veteran paramedic who after years responding to violent scenes takes matters into his own hands and turns into a vigilante out for revenge.

December 7 ALL MY CHILDREN & ONE LIFE TO LIVE Still Being Shopped?
Prospect Park, the production company that licensed digital rights to the soaps from ABC, has continued to hold meetings with other parties exploring options for keeping them going online, according to sources familiar with discussions.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Was it all some kind of corporate kabuki dance?  Or were they innocent innovators with bad luck (but good) intentions?  Please share your thoughts and ideas on the rise and fall of Prospect Park in the Comments section, below. And come back on Wednesday for the results of our most recent Prospect Park survey.


  1. I doubt it was anything cynical. PP doesn't have any deals w/ ABC outside the soaps. PP main source of revenue are projects with NBCUniversal's cable channels.

    From all descriptions, they bit off more than they could chew and lacked the knowledge of how to create an online network and fund it.

    What's sad is that PP tried to dump the blame for this project's failure on the unions. It's obvious, with 1200 jobs at stake, the unions were willing to deal.

    Cady McClain's article points out numerous suggestions that the unions, actors, and other gave to PP on how to slice costs, but PP ignored them all. That's arrogance and stupidity.

    Moreover, PP did a terrible job of marketing the project. Instead of jumping out and communicating with fans and doing the smart thing, making a deal w/ Susan Lucci right away, and be willing to lose a little money in the first year, PP just couldn't get out its way.

    So, thus ends the glory of ABC Daytime. Killed by incompetence of Brian Frons and Anne Sweeney. Then made to suffer an painful attempt at resuscitation.


  2. *sigh*

    I still have yet to understand just what people are trying to drive at. That PP is the personal puppet of Brian Frons and ABCD? Kwatinetz is a hologram or something? They have two shows on the air, a music division that's had some hits, and now at least two drama projects in the works. They're a REAL COMPANY! They're not the minions of ABC! They bit off more than they can chew with soaps, money fell through, their PR department sucks, and they just didn't get it done.

    Frank Valentini is by all accounts a shrewd executive with a love of the genre. Do you think he'd be the VP of a fake company out to dash the hopes and dreams of soap fans everywhere? He and RC love OLTL; why would they participate in some kind of fraud?

    Also: "They have stolen our hopes for a sense of closure as we mourn two fallen icons of soap opera history." Seriously, WLS?

  3. I am mostly upset Prospect Park had AMC and OLTL rewriting the endings with cliffhangers. I wish we could find out the original endings, if OLTL even had one. We know AMC did.

  4. Rich Frank is a former Disney exec. and Jeff Kwatinez is no novice to show business so how on earth they could have believed that they could produce the soaps the same way online as on the web is BS. FV also knew full well that the numbers would not support the deal being successful. The way this whole thing went down is fishy. I'm not saying any conspiracy bet. Frons or ABC to dupe the soap fans but something is really off. Some of us fans even said the deal couldn't be done. Trevor St. John said it would take a miracle for PP to pull this off. The sopas could have continued online-just not hour long episodes five days a week. More like the way soaps already online do things. Short episodes weekly with regular seasons. So many things don't add up but we'll never know.

  5. What really is curious is that the deal was announced to be dead withing days of OLTL's last tape date. If PP had been really serious, they would have said they were still going to try to get backing or alter the plan or something. But they dropped this deal like a hot potato the day after the show taped it's last show. I gotta cal BS.

  6. Frankly, the whole thing doesn't sound that different from your typical real estate deal gone bust.

    You know -- there's this lovely, old, commercial building in the center of town. Very historic. Looks to have good bones, yet some whisper it could be a real money pit.

    Soon, a couple of out-of-state speculators come in. Put a deposit down (with contingencies of course) and tell the city planning commission that they have plans that could turn the old place into a cornerstone for urban renewal.

    They announce, "We're calling in inspectors and contractors! Putting out feelers to see if existing tenants will stay. We've got an experienced lead architect and designer on board, both very familiar with rehabbing these architectural gems! It's going to be beautiful, and we'll keep it all original. So stay tuned!"

    Then, after looking at things more closely and failing to get appropriate construction loans from the bank, they simply exercise one of the contingencies to back out of the deal.

  7. dopWell abc just put soap fans off for months.Wars back on.Never really believed pp was real.Already producing other shows.Amazing isn't it they don't have funding,HUM!!!We where screwed and tatooed,

  8. Kwatinetz has been around for a long time and one of his most famous traits is that he dreams big, way too big compared to what he can actually pull off. He's notorious for biting off more than he can chew. I think he believed he could do this, but like so many projects before it, the AMC/OLTL revivals never had a chance but he didn't realize that until it was too late.

  9. I don't buy into the conspiracy theories that PP was in on "pacifying the fans from the beginning" as some claim. I truly believe they were sincere about saving the shows (at least OLTL) and had made lots of good plans in several areas. Their BIGGEST flaw from the very beginning though was boldly announcing that (a) they would retain the same 5 day a week, 36 minute format (b) they would start airing the week after they ended their ABC run...that was NEVER realistic. No matter what production company or network picked up the show, no one could have had everything ready that quickly (and even if they did it would be horribly rushed to be severely lacking in quality).

    Then when PP had to admit they couldn't accomplish the impossible task of having it ready to go by Jan 2012, instead of setting a new realistic start date, they just threw in the towel. THAT was unforgivable. If they just simply readjusted to an actual workable timeframe they could have continued the shows with much success - but they just simply gave up. Shame on them. We would have happily waited. None of us involved with trying to save the show never asked or expected the shows would be ready for immediate debut after the ABC run ended.