Prospect Park founders Jeff Kwatinetz and Richard Frank saw an opportunity two years ago when ABC canceled longrunning soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live.
On Tuesday night, Kwatinetz and Frank were finally able to reunite the shows with their fans (who had been emailing the duo daily since the shows’ cancellation) and perhaps usher in a new wave of viewing habits. The company hosted a premiere screening at New York’s NYU Skirball Center ahead of the April 29 online launch on Prospect Park’s digital network TOLN.
“We just saw that ABC canceled them,” Kwatinetz told B&C at the premiere. “We were already working on a model for an online TV network and it just occurred,” he said, calling it “a gift.”
(While ABC gave, Prospect Park believes it also took away. On April 18, the company filed a lawsuit against ABC, alleging the network sabotaged the online rollout by borrowing characters for ABC’s General Hospital and subsequently killing them off. ABC has said the suit has no merit.)
Among the advantages of online distribution, Kwatinetz said, is that for advertisers, it maintains the “sanctity” of commercials. “People can’t DVR through them.” He added, “You can target commercials, get data, [and] find out how people are reacting … and because of that you can have [fewer] commercials.”
“Creatively, people can pick up where they left off,” Kwatinetz continued. “They can watch multiple episodes at once and not have to worry about missing a day and falling behind.”
Inside the theatre, which was packed with a vocal throng of avid soap opera fans, the Prospect Park execs took a moment before the screening to pay tribute to the transformative power of media and technology. Shows with DNA dating back to the days of radio were entering a 21st century frontier. “Thank you!!” one fan couldn’t help but shout before the execs started speaking. Others soon joined in a full-on “thank you” chant - this night was clearly was no passionless, industry-only affair. And no longer a cliffhanger.
“I love to see when things change in an industry,” said Frank, whose long industry tenure includes exec stints at Disney and Paramount. “I’ve been around long enough to watch them change from UHF TV to cable.”
“Technology changes things,” echoed Kwatinetz, who saw the music business transform when he led powerhouse management company The Firm a decade ago in the dawn of iTunes. “We believe this is one of those rare moments in time [where] TV changes.”
Added Frank, “I believe we’re at the forefront of television changing again.”
Before things got too grandiose - or the fans were denied their long-delayed reunion a moment longer - Kwatinetz wrapped up. “Rich and I are either the smartest people in the media business or the dumbest,” he said. “In two weeks, a lot of people are going to be calling us one or the other.”