Back from the dead, two soap operas woo viewers online
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The biggest drama in soap operas these days isn't who's cheating, fighting amnesia, or waking up from a coma. It's whether the backstabbing and love triangles that hooked afternoon TV viewers will work on the Internet.
In a bold wager to revive canceled ABC soaps "All My Children" and "One Life to Live," a pair of Hollywood veterans are taking the 40-year-old dramas online, remaking them for lifelong fans and a younger, Internet-savvy audience.
Starting Monday, new 30-minute episodes will appear each Monday through Thursday on the free Hulu.com website and the paid monthly subscription service Hulu Plus. Fans can also buy episodes in Apple Inc's iTunes store.
The producers, former Walt Disney Co TV chairman Rich Frank and talent management veteran Jeff Kwatinetz, hope to ride a wave of interest in first-run series online, highlighted by the recent buzz for Netflix original drama "House of Cards" and its coming revival of one-time Fox comedy "Arrested Development."
The trick will be to entice the soaps' older and not always Internet-savvy viewers while luring a younger crowd with faster-paced storylines, modern music and contemporary actors next to the shows' longtime stars.
"The challenge and opportunity for them," says Stephanie Stopulos, digital director for media buying firm Starcom USA, "is how to continue to engage the people that are so passionate about it, and also use it as an opportunity to grow."
To beckon new viewers, the producers cast "Jersey Shore" star Jenni "Jwoww" Farley as a bartender on "One Life to Live." Paula Garces from the wacky "Harold & Kumar" movie franchise has joined "All My Children." Snoop Lion, previously known as rapper Snoop Dogg, wrote and sings on the theme song for "One Life to Live," and will play himself in some episodes. He made cameo appearances when the show was on ABC.
The soaps' rebirth will test whether older-skewing audiences will migrate online, and reverse a trend that has seen viewership decline by more than one-third since 2000. When it ended its TV run, "All My Children" attracted an average audience of 2.5 million viewers with a median age of 57, according to Nielsen data provided by Horizon Media. Continued...