Going Retro, Over the Top


Over-the-top content distributors like Hulu Plus and Netfl ix are looking to boost the value and appeal of their brands by developing original programming — even if some of that content looks familiar to a legion of television viewers.

Fans of the classic and cancelled afternoon soap opera All My Children were anxiously awaiting the series’ April 29 relaunch. But while the series returned today to Pine Valley for more intrigue, drama and romance, it won’t come back to ABC, where it ran for 41 years until its cancellation in 2011. Instead, All My Children will be televised over the Internet, via Hulu Plus and iTunes.

Hulu today (April 29) will also debut new episodes from another cancelled ABC soap, One Life to Live, two years after its dismissal from the broadcast network. The two classic soap operas will complement Hulu’s original dramedy series Battleground, which launched last year.

Netfl ix is hoping to draw long-suff ering fans of comedy series Arrested Development to its growing subscriber base. (It recently announced it has about 29.17 million U.S. streaming subscribers, on par with pay service HBO.) Netfl ix will eff ectively off er a fourth season of the Jason Batemanstarrer, which Fox cancelled in 2006 despite widespread critical acclaim. With the subscription video-streaming service already off ering such original scripted series as House of Cards and Hemlock Grove, Netflix hopes to be as well-known for its originals as it is for its huge library of movies and TV shows.

The resurrection of popular but cancelled series can give companies like Hulu and Netfl ix the ability to off er well-known TV franchises with built-in audience bases. Many of those viewers may be fi rst-time Hulu and Netfl ix users who, after getting their show fi x, may be inclined to sample other original and acquired product available on the platforms.

It remains to be seen whether Hulu and Netfl ix’s back to the future strategy will yield big audience dividends.