where the writers are
well, the other shoe finally dropped...

Last Friday, 2 December, the Disney/ABC Television Group announced the following:

  • The formation of Times Square Studios, an integrated current entertainment programming and development division
  • TSS will be headed by Vicki Dummer, previously senior vice president, Alternative Series, Specials & Late-Night, ABC Entertainment, where she was responsible for the development and oversight of numerous programs, including Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Supernanny, Secret Millionaire and Wipeout.
  • TSS and Dummer will oversee current entertainment programming and the development of new programming focused primarily in the areas of non-scripted lifestyle and health for Daytime and Syndication
  • The departure of Brian Frons, president, Daytime, Disney/ABC Television Group

 The day before, 1 December, Frons announced that One Life to Live’s creative team, executive producer, Frank Valentini, and headwriter, Ron Carlivati, would replace the current General Hospital EP, Jill Farren Phelps, and HW, Garin Wolf, respectively.

This came on the heels of the 23 November announcement that Prospect Park was suspending their efforts to recreate OLTL as a Web-based series, confirming the rumors that were swirling just days earlier as OLTL taped its final episode on the 18th,

On 11 November, Prospect Park announced they were shelving plans to move All My Children to the Web and would concentrate their efforts on OLTL.

These events were preceded by a 3 November article in the Wall Street Journal detailing the financial projections. A month earlier, The New York Times profiled Prospect Park head, Jeff Kwatinetz.

The departure of Frons and the formation of Time Square Studios all but guarantee that Disney/ABC will cancel General Hospital in September 2012, and become the first broadcast network to abandon their soap opera lineup entirely. Will NBC and CBS be far behind? But, as distressing as it is for fans to see the demise of daytime soaps accelerate, even more distressing is what these changes mean for not just serialized storytelling on ABC, but for all scripted drama on the broadcast networks – and basic cable, as well.

And, the implications Prospect Park’s failure to save AMC and OLTL extend beyond those two shows and the remaining daytime soaps. If successful, Prospect Park’s efforts might well have created a sustainable economic model for long form drama that would have helped the hundreds of small Web serials to reach their full storytelling potential, currently limited by short episodes – 15-minutes – and short seasons – 10-episodes.

Bruce Barry, a longtime director of numerous soaps, posted a thoughtful response to the collapse of Prospect Park’s plans that correctly pointed out that “those who produce or had produced daytime drama (P&G Productions, ABC ,CBS, NBC) missed the boat long ago when research and development into internet streaming should have been going on to secure the future of their programming.” But Barry also said, “I don't believe that the problem ever was the concept of soaps, but of the availability of when they were able to be viewed,” which echoed Jeff Kwatinetz contention that “that television companies, like the record labels before them, are moving too slowly to embrace how viewers want to consume their content: with ease, everywhere.”

I’m not so sure abouat that. But understanding how and why Prospect Park failed is crucial to the continuation of serialized storytelling in general, and the expansion of online serialized storytelling in particular.

Much more to come...


© 2011 Lynn Liccardo

Limited Licensing: I, Lynn Liccardo, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lynn Liccardo and for non-commercial purposes only.