This post originally appeared on August 16, 2006, on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog, where Sam Ford posts regularly about issues relating to the soap opera industry and the current media environment.
After what has felt like years of silence on the part of Procter & Gamble Productions for providing some of its content for redistribution to American audiences, news has broken recently that PGP will be launching its own Classic Soaps Channel through the new AOL Video player.
PGP is the original broadcaster of soaps, with its two extant shows having been on the air more than 50 years apiece, and several other shows in its archives. This new channel of content will not only air original content that will supplement their current shows As the World Turns and Guiding Light but will also start re-airing episodes of popular but now-defunct soaps such as Search for Tomorrow, Another World, The Edge of Night, and Texas, the Another World spinoff.
At this point, details remain sketchy, as the same paragraph of information is all that can be found from place to place, informing viewers that the company that put the "soap" in soap operas will be launching this new channel. Fans of both old and current PGP shows are eagerly awaiting to see what content the shows will air.
It seems pretty straightforward what the content will be regarding the old shows, as it will be straight distribution, but what will be offered for ATWT and GL. What type of original content might be made available? And, if they will offer original content for these "contemporary classics," will they be offering shows from the vault as well? My thesis reserach about applying convergence culture to the soap opera industry looks, in part, specifically at how best to utilize the immense archive that these shows have.
A platform like the Classic Soaps Channel would be a great way to provide a series of episodes to give historical context about current events happening on the show, for instance, or compliation collections of histories of current or returning characters. PGP could also attempt to recapture former fans who have moved on from ATWT and GL through this platform, by attracting them to rewatch the shows they watched 10 or 20 years ago.
A good model may be WWE 24/7, which charges a subscription fee airing old content through video-on-demand services from cable television providers. Many people who are not fans of the current content are interested in this platform because they can watch their favorite matches and storylines from years past.
What particularly intrigues me about 24/7 is the ability that it gives viewers to follow an old run of the show from episode-to-episode, making a new episode available at regular intervals so that you can follow the history of the show just as if you were watching current episodes. Soaps could do the same thing, but it does require substantial digitization of the archive.
At this point, it's not clear how far developed that digitization process is for PGP or what they have planned for ATWT or GL, but this new platform, if promoted and used right, could serve to bring in new or returning viewers by utilizing soaps' strongest power: their own histories. If that historical content is used in strong correlation with the current programming on CBS, it might serve to transfer those nostalgic fans to watching the current show as well.
And, if all else fails or if the media landscape shifts drastically in the next decade, the AOL Video platform shows potential promise for new distribution formats to help keep the daytime serial drama alive and vibrant, as I focused on earlier today.