Soaps are known for bringing folks back from the dead, but this January may be their biggest resurrection yet: A production company, Prospect Park, hopes to relaunch some favorite soaps as web shows. (ABC recently killed off All My Children and One Life to Live.) But can it succeed? Internet TV pros chart a course.
THE CHALLENGE: Cutting costs.
Soaps cost about $190,000 an episode; even web shows with deep pockets get by for about $10,000.
THE SOLUTION: Dress it down.
"Make it seem more real. People want to feel like they're watching their neighbors," says Dina Kaplan of Blip.tv. "As long as it looks better than a YouTube video of a cat on a skateboard, that's good enough for a web audience."
THE CHALLENGE: Star power.
Though a number of the shows' actors have agreed to make the jump to the web, Susan Lucci—the diva of daytime—has yet to accept Prospect Park's contract offer to continue her reign as Erica Kane on All My Children.
THE SOLUTION: Create new stars.
"Soap actors can create blogs, use social media, or create videos, which they didn't do on mainstream TV," says Susan Miller, executive producer of the award-winning web series Anyone but Me. The sense of intimacy will have fans asking, "Susan Lucci who?"
THE CHALLENGE: Luring viewers.
The genre's viewership plummeted from 6.5 million in 1991 to 1.3 million in 2010. The remaining loyalists aren't known for their youth and may be slow to embrace technology.
THE SOLUTION: Build a network.
"You saw it with Lost, where the fan base developed a rapport online," says Diane Charles of L Studio, which produces Lisa Kudrow's Web Therapy. "Having a network where viewers can give feedback and influence the plot empowers them."
A version of this article appeared in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.