Picture This

New Life For Old Shows On Web

7/11/2011 12:37 PM

The television industry is still trying to figure out what to make of the Internet and how the web will affect the traditional TV business in both positive and negative ways.

Both cable and broadcast networks have used the web as a promotional tool to build awareness for their shows; as a video on demand platform to allow consumers to watch episodes of their favorite shows whenever they want; and as an  incubator to develop new programming concepts that could eventually be successful on the small screen.

Networks like HBO with its HBOGo consumer-authenticated service, are even giving viewers an opportunity to watch episodes from popular shows as Game Of Thrones and True Blood in advance of their airings on the traditional cable platform.

Last week broadcast network ABC opened a new opportunity to programmers to test the viability of the web. ABC will continue its recently cancelled daytime soap operas All My Children and One Life To Live via the web as part of a distribution arrangement with media company Prospect Park.

According to ABC, Prospect Park – run by entertainment industry veteran Jeffrey Kwatinetz and former Disney Studios head Rich Frank – will continue production of the 41-year old All My Children after it leaves the air in September and One Life To Live, when the departs in January after 44 years on ABC. But instead of a daily afternoon-television slot, the soaps will be seen via online formats and additional emerging platforms including internet-enabled television sets, with the promise of the same quality, format and length and its current TV versions.

While cancelled TV shows have found new life on other cable networks (TNT is producing new episodes of NBC’s cancelled crime series Southland) and on other distribution platforms (satellite service DirecTv will debut on July 13 the fourth season of the multiple Emmy Award-winning and FX-cancelled series Damages), it’s arguably the first time a major cable or broadcast show has found a second life on the Internet.

Although details are still murky about how Prospect Park will financially pull off the ambitious undertaking – and it’s unclear how many grandmas will sit in front of a computer screen to watch the latest machinations of AMC’s grand diva Erica Kane – the fact that ABC and Prospect are willing to gamble on the web further cements the integration of the Internet into the television world.  

“[The ABC/Prospect Park deal] is symptomatic of the immense amount of experimentation that’s going on right now –in an odd sort of way it’s like we’re back at the early days of television when they were experimenting and didn’t know what was going to work,” said TV historian Tim Brooks. “The internet and digital media is something that we haven’t gotten our hands around, so I’m not surprised about the various experimentations, and props to executives for doing it.”        

As the old saying goes, the only constant is change.

September