New Life for Old Shows on Web

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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 HBO Go consumerauthenticated
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 offered a new opportunity
for 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 it 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 of the 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 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

“[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,” TV historian Tim Brooks said. “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.