While it really does appear that the show will find a new life as part of some online/cable partnership, even if that won't be until 2012, today ends the run of All My Children on ABC (and with a big cliffhanger!). The business model for soap operas on network TV doesn't seem built to last - after all, why not just pay on-air salaries for five people (in the case of All My Children's replacement, the food talk show, The Chew, which seems designed to ruin the careers of Mario Batali and Michael Symon) - but the current audience might not migrate to the online version:
According to ABC, 10 million women ages 18 to 49 watch TV from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., but only 16% are tuned in to one of the soaps. Stay-at-home mothers are more likely to be watching the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon with their kids, connecting with others on Facebook or playing online social games.
A Los Angeles-based production company, Prospect Park, believes there is still juice left in the soaps. It hopes to adapt "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" for the Internet. The company bought the rights to the two ABC dramas last summer to launch as part of a planned online entertainment channel.
"People are just glued to these programs, and that's the ideal audience," Prospect Park co-founder Rich Frank said. "There is nothing else like it in American television, and we do not want to ignore technology."
But the soap audience is generally more comfortable with its TVs than its computers.
For 41 years, Martie Sanchez, Martha Torres' daughter, has been watching "All My Children." She introduced her mother to the program in 1970 — the year it debuted — after becoming enthralled with a Vietnam War-era story line.
"The show was something my whole family had in common," said Sanchez, 64, who recently retired from her job teaching special needs students. "My mom loved the drama. She would talk about the stories in a way that helped her transmit her values to me and my daughters."
When Martie's daughter, Desiree, moved to New York in 2004, she would call her grandparents each night so they could rehash plot twists. Her grandfather, Joe Torres, died the following year. Martha Torres died in 2008, and on the day she passed, her family forgot to watch the soap.
"This show was the last viable connection that we had with my mom and dad," Martie Sanchez said. "And I really didn't think I would ever lose this."