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Sunday, May 19, 2013

AMC & OLTL: Thoughts on the Episode Reductions

Last Thursday (May 16, 2013), news was released that All My Children and One Life to Live would be cut to two episodes a week with only one combined behind the scenes show airing on Friday. This entry will speak about my feelings on the subject matter today. Since there are interviews with Prospect Park coming and I have yet to see the shows on a limited schedule it is subject to change. That said trying to create a schedule that will work for everyone isn't possible as there are so many different kinds of viewers. In another entry I want to discuss things that Prospect Park could do in support of the shows online to raise awareness and reward the people who are watching already.

I feel like what Prospect Park was reaction to a small amount of data as both shows aired less than three weeks. People are still finding the shows, so it makes sense that the first episodes are getting the most hits and also perhaps people are sampling who watch(ed) other shows. If people are watching the first couple of days and nothing more, they perhaps tried the program didn't like it and aren't coming back again. We won't know if that's the case if the people are watching when not logged into Hulu or Hulu Plus.

While the less episode order may help casual viewers catch up, it may alienate some of the core diehard fans. The information about the hours when most people tending to watch during certain hours was interesting and not surprising as they are the times of that on the east coast there are no soaps on television. I don't know how Prospect Park can know if people will be confused if they missed a show, and if someone is a casual viewer of either show, they may not automatically think they need to watch every episode.

That said there is increased backlash due to the news that came out today, Sunday May 19, 2013 with the dropping of AMC and OLTL by FX Canada due to this change. Some fans spent money that is non-refundable to receive the channel only to watch AMC and/or OLTL. If I was in their shoes, I'd be disappointed and disheartened. At least those who subscribed to Hulu Plus within the US, in theory could cancel or suspend their accounts until there was a lot of episodes to view, turn it back on binge watch and then turn it off again if they felt cheated by having to pay the same amount for half as many episodes per month.

There were a few additional interviews that were given outside of the press release. One was with Soap Opera Digest and the other with ABC Soaps in Depth. I wanted to touch on certain statements they made directly.

Binge Viewing & Carryover Viewing

It sounded like Prospect Park was surprised that people were binge viewing or not watching both shows. While the ratings for AMC and OLTL were close on ABC, the Nielsen sample is so small there is no way to know how accurate they were. So I found those comments within the press release a bit misguided. With Hulu and iTunes they have everyone's data not just a representative percentage. When the technology became available for people to time shift programming, binge viewing became a regular thing for fans. SoapNet, which aired the programs for a little more of their last decade on television, had regular weekend marathons as well. So the fact that a smaller percentage is watching within 24 hours than did on ABC isn't surprising with the additional data being available to Prospect Park.

With on demand viewing (either via a cable system, iTunes or Hulu) there is no turning on the program early and catching the show before the one you planned to watch. Also there is the concept of turning a television on and leaving it on the same channel while doing other things. Who knows how many people who were watching AMC and OLTL watched this way were counted by Nielsen. I do this quite often sitting at the computer, I'll watch a show, and once it is over leave the television on in the background. I never do that when I watch something online, as I close the window or tab.

In the SOD article, Jeff Kwatinetz mentions paraphrasing here: what about viewers who find out about the shows late and he wonders what are the odds the person will say 'Oh I'm willing to watch 30 episodes'. There are two reasons this statement throws me: how many fans have watched AMC and/or OLTL from day one and how many viewers learn to love shows via reruns (whether on television or on demand) or via DVD boxed sets. I'll go into more detail below:

Watching every episode from day one:

Many soap fans who started watching on television didn't begin with episode one as they weren't even alive when AMC and OLTL began myself included. Numerous years of both shows are unavailable as they weren't archived, and the available episodes are locked in a vault, so unless were watching in 1968 for OLTL and 1970 in the case of AMC you wouldn't have seen everything. We all had to watch to understand what was going on, seek out information from others to learn more about it, buy a magazine or read a website. On TOLN.com they mention how they plan to add to their website, once that happens perhaps it will make it easier for new people to understand the characters and their relationships if they want to jump in and not spend the time on every episode (though Prospect Park makes less money if people do that, but I digress.)

The Amount of episodes available:

30 episodes of a 30 minute show is only 15 hours of content or about 900 minutes. To give an example using DVDs in my own collection, the three seasons of Veronica Mars had the following lengths: season one - 935 minutes, season two - 929 minutes and season three - 842 minutes. So for someone to catch up with both AMC and OLTL if there were 30 episodes available of each they would be watching the equivalent of two season long DVD sets. If you look at it this way it really isn't daunting. That said, having a strong website with character information would help people to jump in later.

In conclusion, I want the shows to be successful, and run a lot more than for one year and 110 episodes each. The key is to gain new viewers, convert casual viewers into diehards and keep the diehards you already have happy. This is a big task, and hopefully the infrastructure will soon be in place to allow this to happen.

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