The long-running ABC soap opera All My Children two months from tomorrow will end its run on the network -- and three days after that, thanks to an unprecedented licensing agreement between ABC and the production company Prospect Park, it will enter the history books as the first broadcast television series to move intact from television to the Internet. If AMC succeeds there, either as a free advertiser-supported Web series, or on a pay-per-month or pay-per-view and/or download platform, everything we know about the production, distribution and potential longevity of broadcast and cable programming will likely change forever. (What a shame that Guiding Light, which Procter and Gamble and CBS gave up on two years ago, wasn't allowed a similar shot at Web redemption, making it the only entertainment series ever to move from radio to television to the Internet.)
Strangely, there has been almost no new information about Prospect Park's specific plans for AMC since the big news about its big move broke last month. (AMC will stop producing new episodes for ABC in late August.) The same is true of its companion soap, One Life to Live, which is set to end production in November, will present its final episodes on ABC in January, and will then follow AMC to Prospect Park's new online home, whatever it may be. ABC's much-publicized plans for AMC's final weeks on its air, which are said to include an influx of former stars from the show returning as their long-departed characters and numerous long-running storylines being brought to satisfying conclusions, will seemingly have to be altered if Prospect Park's plan to continue the show without interruption are to happen. Actors currently on the show will need to commit to the Web version -- if they're still wanted, that is -- while casting notices will have to go out for newcomers. With only two months to go it would seem that bits of news about AMC's future will start flying any day now.
The immediate impact of the ABC-Prospect Park arrangement will center on AMC, but it will accelerate overnight if this soap opera proves more popular online than it has been in recent years on TV, especially if millions of fans agree to pay to watch it, or its performance is strong enough to entice the right advertisers. Imagine the impact on television research if hits or downloads or other measurements of Internet viewing and engagement show that AMC is stronger than traditional television ratings have lead us all to believe. Further, if AMC enjoys robust new life online, think of the firestorm of fan-fueled campaigns to come for on-the-bubble primetime broadcast and cable shows. It isn't that far a stretch to suggest that under these circumstances advertisers might prove similarly enthusiastic about the continuation of certain shows even if broadcast or cable networks have lost interest.
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