All My ChildrenWhen American broadcast network ABC announced it was canceling the long running soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live, soap fans were up in arms and scrambled to find a way to save their beloved shows.  The biggest target was trying to get Oprah Winfrey to put them on her OWN cable channel.  Ms. Winfrey heard their pleas, but as she explained in a video she released, it just didn’t make financial sense for her netwrok to bring those shows on to their roster.  With that message, it seemed like all hope was lost and All My Children would end in Sept. 2011 and One Life to Live in Jan. 2012.

Then, earlier  today, a surprising press release was sent out saying that both shows had indeed been saved, and that they would continue on past their end dates on ABC, but it would be on the Web.

Say what?

Yes, a media company named Prospect Park has acquired the rights to both shows in an exclusive multi-year, multi-platform deal.  Both properties are promised to be delivered with the same quality, format and length that they currently have on broadcast television, which may be the biggest surprise as everyone knows Web videos are typically kept fairly short in length.  The press release went on to say that both shows would be delivered “via online formats and additional emerging platforms including internet enabled television sets.”  (We wouldn’t be surprised to see an iPad app as another means of distribution) There was no word yet, however, on when the shows would take to the Internet, nor if there would be any cost associated with watching either show.

While soap operas are not exactly the normal beat here at TechnoBuffalo, my imagination was immediately captured by this concept.  This move, although it deals with two shows that could no longer exist on broadcast television, signal to me that the Web has entered a new age of legitimacy.  Up until now we have been stuck with “webisodes”, which, even when produced by big media outlets, have tended towards being lower quality productions and much shorter in length.  Moving the primary productions to the Web, and making that their sole distribution system, is an entirely new beast and makes me excited for the future of online video.

Certainly soap operas are not everyone’s cup of tea, but move the thinking out beyond that to other shows that have met an untimely end and if this opportunity had been open to them.  Being a geek, my mind is of course turning towards the short lived Joss Whedon series, Firefly.  While probably too expensive to have moved to the Web under any circumstances, it could have been a potential venue if broadband had been further along in its deployment when the series was canceled in 2002.

Yes, this concept may be starting with soap operas, but the genre has a long history of being leaders in breaking open new media platforms.  Soap operas that moved from radio to television helped that outlet grow and expand into what we know it as today, and now they are potentially leading the way into bringing longer form productions to the Web.  You may scoff now, but when your favorite TV show gets canceled, you may now have a success story you can point to as an example of why it can move to the Internet.  Of course, if this completely fails, we may also remember it as the day the concept died as well.

What do you think of producing longer form original content for Web distribution?  Can it succeed?