June 26--The Oprah Winfrey Network, continuing its programming pivot, has acquired limited rights to the beloved daytime dramas "All My Children" and "One Life to Live."
The Los Angeles-based network, co-owned by Winfrey, announced the acquisition Wednesday. OWN said it was arranging a "summer fling for soap fans" by obtaining television licensing rights for the first 40 episodes of Prospect Park's versions of the longtime ABC soaps, which were created for the Internet.
Beginning July 15, half-hour episodes of each show will run on the cable channel Monday through Thursday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., which is similar to the broadcast schedule when the soaps aired on the Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC network.
When OWN launched two years ago it eschewed scripted programming and loaded up its schedule with talk shows and docu-dramas. Although Winfrey's Harpo Studios had done well with scripted programming, OWN avoided the format because the channel is co-owned by Discovery Communications, which prides itself on its nonfiction programming.
But OWN's initial programming, which revolved around self-help and celebrities overcoming adversity, didn't prove to be a potent draw for audiences. Then this summer, OWN has achieved ratings success with two Tyler Perry scripted programs, "The Haves and the Have Nots" and "Love Thy Neighbor."
Critics excoriated Perry's shows, which also served to reignite an ongoing debate within the African American community about negative stereotypes of black characters on TV. Despite the controversy, the episodes have drawn more than 1 million viewers, a new high-water mark for the beleaguered Winfrey-owned channel.
OWN billed its soap opera acquisition as "a special exclusive 10-week limited engagement." OWN would likely extend the arrangement if the soaps prove to be a commercial success, and the summer run is something of a test.
"These shows have proven to be very popular with a significant, loyal fan base, not to mention Oprah herself is a big fan," Erik Logan, OWN's president, said in a statement. "Many of our viewers across numerous platforms have expressed their passion for the soaps so we are especially excited to air this limited engagement on OWN."
For the Century City-based Prospect Park, the arrangement with OWN provides another stream of revenue to support its ambitious project to revive the soaps. ABC killed the two series in 2011 and 2012 because the programs' audiences were dwindling and their large cast and crew were cutting into ABC's profit margins.
However, since ABC canceled the two series the remaining broadcast soaps -- ABC's "General Hospital," NBC's "Days of Our Lives," and "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful" on CBS have seen their audiences stabilize and, in some cases, increase.
One of the main challenges facing Prospect Park was that a majority of the soap fans were over the age of 50, and not accustomed to watching programming on their computers. The limited run on OWN could solve that dilemma by bringing the shows back to TV, and thus being more accessible for less tech-savvy viewers.
The two productions made their online debut on April 29. "One Life to Live" was introduced on ABC in 1968 and "All My Children" got its start on ABC two years later. The shows were created by Agnes Nixon, and each ran for more than 40 years on broadcast TV.
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