Soaps

Rights to ‘All My Children,’ ‘One Life to Live’ Revert to ABC; Prospect Park Suit Dismissed

Photo: The OnLine Network

After three years of litigation, the Prospect Park Networks breach of contract lawsuit against ABC over the rights to All My Children and One Life to Live has been dismissed. 

Licensing rights to the dramas are now back in ABC’s control.

Prospect Park Networks, which licensed the rights to the soaps created by the late great Agnes Nixon after ABC unceremoniously canceled them in 2011, filed a $25 million suit against ABC in April 2013 over allegations of conspiracy, sabotage and breach of contract. Prospect Park later amended the lawsuit in November 2013, months after shutting down production, alleging ABC conspired to create a “mega soap” and defraud Prospect Park Networks by sabotaging their efforts to reboot the soaps, among other things, seeking $125 million in damages.

Language in the contract between ABC and Prospect Park Networks included a clause stating ownership rights would revert to ABC if production ceased for 18 consecutive months (Prospect Park’s amended suit also sought to rewrite this). Production for All My Children and One Life to Live ceased June 2013, 11 days ahead of a planned summer hiatus, due to labor disputes with unions for the crew. An agreement would later be reached, but production never continued. AMC’s was to resume August 2013, later pushed to October 2013; OLTL production was suspended indefinitely September 2013 pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

As part of the conspiracy, Prospect Park alleged ABC maliciously convinced the studio to let them “borrow” select characters from One Life to Live in a “limited and short-term capacity” for use on General Hospital. Prospect Park claimed ABC violated the terms of their agreement in a pre-conceived plan to undermine any future attempts by Prospect Park to reboot the projects. “Even before the ink dried on the parties’ agreement, ABC began unilaterally changing key storylines and themes, literally killing some OLTL characters and deeply integrating others into the GH landscape, all to create a mega soap of GH behind Prospect Park’s back,” read their suit. (Editor’s Note: On November 23, 2011, Prospect Park announced it was suspending its plans to launch the series online)

Prospect also accused the network of engaging in deceptive practices when negotiating “secret, multi-year, exclusive contracts” with Michael Easton, Kristen Alderson and Roger Howarth (Editor’s Note: The complaint later included Kassie DePaiva in this group, though she was never signed to a ‘multi-year, exclusive’ contract) behind the studio’s backs. “Although ABC was well aware that having the OLTL characters portrayed by  these specific actors was an important element of the OLTL format rights acquired by Prospect Park, ABC never informed these actors of Prospect Park’s rights to the characters, and on information and belief, made multiple misrepresentations about Prospect Park, its plans and prospects to induce the actors to sign with ABC. Not a word was said to Prospect Park about any of this.”

Thus, Prospect Park sustained damages that hindered the success of the projects: “Confronted with losing its entire investment or trying to pick up the pieces and press on, Prospect Park eventually produced one new season of OLTL and of AMC. But, the damage could not be undone, nor the fans reclaimed. As a consequence of ABC’s fraud and its multiple breaches of both the express terms of the parties’ contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing included in every contract in this state, Prospect Park has sustained the loss of its investment of over $30 million, as well as the profits that it stood to make had ABC acted as the partner it had held itself out to be.”

In addition to the above, ABC was also accused of other forms of sabotage including but not limited to:

  • Failing to consult Prospect Park for storyline approval
  • Refusing to allow OLTL stars to appear on ABC’s other programming to promote the online projects
  • Creating “copy-cat” characters and daring to air them during and after the filing of their lawsuit and while Roger Howarth appeared on the online version of OLTL
  • Refusing to turn over URLS and social media pages for show websites
  • Altering OLTL “canon” by killing off characters and breaking up popular pairings
  • Refusing to air advertisements for One Life to Live and All My Children
  • Instructing Hulu management not to offer Prospect Park the beneficial financial terms and arrangements that Hulu was prepared to provide and had provided other less popular shows; making negative comments about Prospect Park to actors and encouraging them not to sign on to OLTL
  • Hiring Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati as General Hospital’s new executive producer and head writer as part of its plans to create a “mega soap” out of OLTL and GH. (Editor’s Note: Prospect Park fired both executives in November after suspending [Prospect Park now says it was only temporary] plans to launch OLTL in January 2012).

ABC filed a counterclaim in March 2014 seeking $5 million in damages plus unpaid licensing fees for All My Children and One Life to Live. At the time, ABC claimed fees for Season 1 of All My Children and One Life to Live were $4.5 million and $4 million, respectively. ABC’s countersuit sought to recover all unpaid Series Fees owed up to and through the date of the trial because of Prospect Park’s failure to pay in breach of the License Agreement.

ABC alleged Prospect Park paid series fees for both series for the months of April, May and June 2013, but it only paid the fees for All My Children for July and August 2013, and hadn’t issued any payments since despite ABC’s demand. As part of its suit, ABC sought compensatory damages, legal fees and interest before and after the judgment. Under the terms of the licensing deal, series fees for both shows would have amounted to more than $145 million over the course of 15 seasons.

ABC’s response to the Prospect Park lawsuit included the following:

  • Per ABC, the agreement allows Prospect Park the rights to produce up to 15 seasons of 12 calendar months for All My Childrenand One Life to Live.
  • Rights would revert to ABC only if: a) The network ceases production for 18 consecutive months. Should that happen, rights would revert to ABC ORb) Prospect Park meets the terms of the agreement and produces the 15 seasons.
  • With production on the Connecticut-based soaps “suspended” since September 2013, Prospect would’ve had to resume production on AMC and OLTL before March 2015 or their rights would expire.
  • After Prospect Park’s first attempts to get AMC and OLTL off the ground failed in 2011 due to “financing shortages, labor disputes and high production costs,” the studio and ABC entered an amended agreement that would benefit both parties.
  • In exchange for licensing back to ABC the rights to use some OLTL characters on General Hospital, ABC would “align the dates for Prospect Park to exercise its options for OLTL and AMC, thus giving Prospect an additional four months on the AMC option, and to forgive some of the debt that Prospect owed it at that point.”
  • ABC contended that Prospect Park didn’t complain while the characters were used by the network throughout 2012. When Prospect decided to move forward with AMC and OLTL, ABC entered “two additional amendments to use the License Agreement, which each extended Prospect Park’s time to begin production of the shows and give ABC continuing use of the OLTL characters on GH.”

Prospect Park Networks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2014, at the time listing ABC as one of its top creditors with $1.7 million owed. Additionally PPN owed money to the Writer’s Guild, Screen Actors Guild, Director’s Guild, Connecticut Film Center and actors including Erika Slezak (Viki, OLTL), Tuc Watkins (David, OLTL) and Denyse Tontz (Miranda, AMC), among others. Running up debt, stiffing creditors and the workers. A true Trump mess.

About the author

Ryan White-Nobles

Ryan White-Nobles is Editor-in-Chief of TVSource Magazine. He's a natural #Heel who loves a spirited debate and probably watches too much TV. Follow him on Twitter at @SourceRyan to discuss all things TV, soaps, sports, wrestling and pop culture.