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AFTRA Soaps Up: Union in 'AMC,' 'OLTL' Talks

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The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is in discussions with Prospect Park over the entertainment firm’s plans to turn “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” into Web series. Talks began shortly after the company announced earlier this month that it would license the rights to the shows from ABC, which will cease broadcasting the long-running soaps this year. AFTRA is in the process of scheduling meetings with cast members to address their concerns and advise them of their rights under the union’s Network Code agreement.

No doubt plenty of “AMC” and “OLTL” actors will be eager to hear what AFTRA reps have to say at those meetings. Since the Prospect Park deal was announced, observers have speculated that sizeable cost cuts will be needed in order to fit the show onto the Web—and that some of those cost cuts may come in the form of pay cuts for long-time cast members. As the Los Angeles Times noted recently, a typical daytime soap opera costs about $50 million per year to produce. Considering that no one has yet figured out how to make anything close to $50 million producing series for the web, something’s got to give. Prospect Park did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is a deal that actors who care about the future of their industry need to watch closely, and should feel free to have mixed feelings about right now. On one hand, asking the well-known cast members of two successful programs—ones where the extreme devotion of the still-sizeable hardcore audience stems, in large part, from the comfort of seeing those actors appear on screen day in and day out—sounds icky and wrong. On the other, if Prospect Park can create a profitable model for daily dramas on the web, it won’t just represent a ray of hope for the once-doomed soap genre. It will be a breakthrough in the gradual, inevitable shift of scripted content from the decaying broadcast television medium to computers and mobile devices. That would be some welcome progress in these days of Hulu obituaries and Netflix subscriber revolts.

Or the whole thing could implode like Jennifer Lopez’s marriage. As the saying goes, “May you live in interesting times—or long enough to watch Susan Lucci on your iPad.”

Pictured: Cornelius Smith Jr. and Denise Vasi in "All My Children"

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