This post originally appeared on August 16, 2006, on the <a href="http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/">Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog, where Sam Ford posts regularly about issues relating to the soap opera industry and the current media environment.
Scores of new programs are launching on iTunes' video feature on a weekly basis, but the latest is the first of the daytime serial dramas to announce their iTunes availability.
Passions, the youngest of the nine current daytime soap operas, will now be available on iTunes on a daily basis. The barriers for soaps to enter iTunes are a little bit larger than primetime shows, considering the daily episodes, the lack of emphasis in most networks on daytime programming as opposed to primetime lineups, and other industry factors.
It may not come as that big of a surprise that the youngest soap would be the first to launch onto iTunes, although PGP already podcasts their soaps, and many shows make their lineup available on cable network SoapNet for evening or weekend viewing.
NBC's Passions is a little more accessible for iTunes because of its being one of only two current American soap operas that are only 30 minutes in duration, cutting the total programming volume per week from 5 hours to 2.5 hours.
I've written a couple of times in the past about how Passions, which is somewhat of a parody soap, has been pretty innovative with its pop culture references across multiple television genres. For instance, the show has aired part of an episode in animated form and an entire Bollywood episode.
Of course, the show is a little bit more amenable to these types of experimental content considering the over-the-top nature of the show. But maybe, if Passions has some success on iTunes, other shows will follow suit. People already regularly BitTorrent soaps and post clips on YouTube, and some soaps have had some success in the past airing pay-for-streaming episodes, such as was once available through the no-longer-existing SoapCity.
And, while many--from the creative folks behind soaps to the industry to the fans themselves--are talking about the future of soaps and what might happen next, as I've written about previously with NBC's Days of Our Lives, digital distribution may eventually offer a viable alternative for these shows, if there can ever be enough online advertising revenue or subscription rates to help guarantee the costs needed to fun those large ensemble casts.
As referenced in that post, executives had told soap producers that, if their current contracts were not renewed with the network, they should consider alternative forms of distrubution instead of letting these shows with such storied histories die away. By looking back at that issue, which I wrote about last December, and then seeing Passions launch into iTunes, it seems that this cross-platform distribution may be a good way for soaps to prepare for the future, in case the networks ever decide to pull their dedication to the serial drama form and instead launch a whole other round of daytime reality shows or talk shows.