Online-Only Soap Ads Won't Air on NBC, ABC, CBS

Roger Howarth
Roger Howarth
 ABC

A version of this story first appeared in the May 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Canceled TV soaps All My Children and One Life to Live are being revived online beginning April 29 by producer Prospect Park, but don't look for ads touting them on the major broadcast networks. Sources tell THR that CBS, NBC and even ABC, which licensed the shows for a web revival, won't be running spots for the shows.

CBS, which has run ads for digital outlets Netflix and Hulu (which is distributing the revived soaps), declined comment. But a source tells THR the network views the digital re-launch as a direct competitor to its popular daytime dramas, including The Bold and the Beautiful.

NBC also declined to comment as did Prospect Park. However, a source says NBC refused to carry ads during its only remaining daytime soap, Days of Our Lives. The network was open to primetime spots, which Prospect Park declined to pursue. NBC did, however, sell ads on several of its cable networks.

A source close to the network said Prospect Park's buying agency made a preliminary request for information on budgets and availability, but never followed up. That source insists NBC never turned them down for ads because there was never any actual request, and no creative work related to possible ads was ever shown to them for approval by their standards and practices department (which would be necessary before they an ad could run).

If that sounds like as much of a soap opera as the shows themselves, it is just the beginning. The real drama  has been between Prospect Park and ABC. 

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ABC licensed AMC and OLTL to Prospect Park, run by Jeff Kwatinetz and Rich Frank, in a deal sources say is worth more than $8 million a year to the network, plus an annual royalty. The relationship hasn't gone smoothly, as Prospect revealed in a $25 million lawsuit filed April 18. The suit claims ABC breached its contract by failing to cooperate on the relaunch and by improperly using characters on General Hospital that were to be shared.

One of those actors is Roger Howarth, who played Todd Manning on the old OLTL. With Prospect's permission, he played the same character beginning in March 2012 on ABC's General Hospital but eventually was written out. GH now plans to bring him back as another character, while he also is set to co-star in the revived OLTL.

Meanwhile, Horwath also shot scenes in Connecticut for the revival of OLTL as Manning. Those scenes will be parceled out throughout the first season. 

ABC sources say the network was willing to accept ads within GH because of the licensing relationship, but on April 17 when Prospect submitted an ad for OLTL that included Howarth prominently. ABC refused it -- on the grounds that it would confuse the audience.

Prospect, after spending considerable time preparing the ad, balked at making changes shortly before it was to run. They did not want to take Howarth out of the ad and, already upset about its dealings with ABC, filed suit the next day.

Notes analyst Brad Adgate of Horizon Media: "The overriding reason to refuse is if they think it's a threat or something that's going to siphon off viewers from them, then they don’t think whatever they charge them would be worth it "

The CW Network did accept ads for the online soaps, which began running in such shows as Hart of Dixie and 90210 last week. Fox, according to a source, also was open to running the ads, but Prospect Park decided against running ads there because the network has only primetime programming and no history with soap operas.

But the ads are visible other places. Prospect Park placed them on numerous cable TV networks and Web sites, as well as social media.

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