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Beloved soaps return on Hulu and iTunes, nation’s grandmothers confused

Eighteen months after the idea of airing ABC’s cancelled soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live online first floated, the concept has come to fruition: Both shows will debut online via Hulu and iTunes later this year.

New episodes of the two series, which were cancelled by ABC in July 2011, will be produced by Prospect Park, a production company formed in 2009 by former Disney Studios head Rich Frank and industry veteran Jeff Kwatinetz (best known for its FX’s Wilfred and USA Network’s Royal Pains). The company initially licensed the rights to continue the soap operas from ABC almost immediately following news of both shows’ cancellation, although the road from there to today has proven remarkably rocky. Initially having trouble finding funding for the project and coming into conflicts with various creative unions over digital distribution, the company officially shelved the plan to revive the soaps in November 2011, only to return to the idea last December following agreements with the Directors’ Guild of American and Screen Actor’s Guild (An agreement with the Writers’ Guild of America followed earlier this month). Initial financing for the soaps’ production has been provided via a deal with ABRY Partners, a media-focused private equity company.

The current plan is to, essentially, continue both series as if nothing had happened. Both shows will run 30 minute episodes (including commercials) five days a week, available for free via Hulu and Hulu Plus, or for download via Apple’s iTunes store. Both series will be bringing back actors and behind-the-scenes creative staff from the television runs of each show, and production is expected to begin for both series next month.

In a statement accompanying the announcement of the Hulu and iTunes distribution deals, Kwatinetz, Prospect Park’s CEO and Chairman, said that he “believe[s] that both Hulu and iTunes have the vision, the reach and the technology to help us launch [The Online Network, the overall name given to Prospect Park’s digital programming initiative] in a significant way.

“We think these platforms are part of history, helping us to transform distribution. Hulu’s reach, platform and advertising prowess are best in class, and iTunes provides an incredible way to buy TV shows that is second to none,” he said. “Through both of these partners, we hope daytime drama fans are absolutely delighted to be able to watch their favorite programs in a broadcast-quality HD format wherever and whenever they want.”

Episodes are expected to be available by spring, meaning that the soaps’ core audiences – who, admittedly, may not be the early adopters or influencers that tend to tune into original content being debuted online – still have a few months to get used to the idea of watching television through the Internet.

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