Soap Opera Deaths|Bring Real Lawsuit


LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Online Network sued ABC for killing off three major characters it borrowed for “General Hospital” before the fledgling network could keep them alive when it resurrects “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” this month on Internet TV.
     Prospect Park Networks sued American Broadcasting Companies for breach of contract in Superior Court.
     Prospect Park claims that when it resurrects “One Life to Live” and “All My Children,” it will have to do so without three characters whom ABC borrowed – and then killed off – on “General Hospital.”
     Prospect Park claims it signed an exclusive licensing agreement to resurrect “One Life to Live” and “All My children” after ABC canceled the soap operas in 2011. Prospect Park plans to re-launch the soaps, and Its internet network, on Monday, April 29.
     Prospect Park claims says ABC’s decision to cancel the long-running soaps – representing a combined 85 years of television history – was “ill-conceived” and angered fans of the shows worldwide.
     So to save the world from what the media dubbed “Soapocalypse,” Prospect Park founders – entertainment mogul Jeffrey Kwatinetz and former Walt Disney Studios president Rich Frank – formed The Online Network to save the shows.
     ABC licensed all elements of the soap operas, including format, titles, settings and characters to Prospect in 2011, according to the complaint. Prospect claims ABC also gave up its own rights to use and license elements of the programs without Prospect’s consent.
     Neither party released the terms of the deal at the time, though Prospect says in its complaint that it paid “enormous license fees of as much as $4 million for the first season alone” to ABC, plus a profit-sharing agreement for “One Life to Live.”
     But four months after paying ABC for the rights, Prospect halted plans to launch its online network and production on the shows, and ABC swooped in, according to the complaint.
     “Ironically, less than nine months after canceling ‘One Life to Live,’ ABC came back to Prospect asking to borrow seven OLTL characters to appear on a limited basis in ABC’s competing soap series ‘General Hospital,'” the complaint states. “Despite the enormous premiums paid for exclusivity, Prospect acceded to ABC’s request as a gesture of goodwill to ABC and more importantly to the actors playing these roles, who would otherwise be unemployed while Prospect was ramping up for production. However, to ensure the integrity of the OLTL characters on loan, and protect the millions invested by Prospect and its principals, Prospect insisted and ABC agreed that ABC would consult Prospect on ‘General Hospital’ storylines. More importantly, ABC also agreed that Prospect would have express ‘approval’ rights over ABC’s use of the OLTL characters. These terms were added to the license by amendment in January 2012. With its rights protected by contract, Prospect proceeded under the reasonable assumption that ABC (which was sharing in the profits) would act like a true partner and collaborate toward the success of the re-launch.”
     Though ABC may have doubted it would ever see its share of the profits from the new venture, with Prospect shelving of both shows and its online network, Prospect claims ABC’s intentions in borrowing the OLTL characters were more nefarious.
     “Unbeknownst to Prospect at the time, elements within the ABC/’General Hospital’ community of executives had very different intentions – intentions that became evident before the ink was even dry on the amendment. For over one year, ABC outright failed and refused to consult with Prospect on any storylines involving these characters, rendering Prospect’s approval rights meaningless. Instead, ABC misused the OLTL characters without regard for Prospect’s rights, or the fact that these characters were to be returned to Prospect for use on OLTL. In the ultimate act of bad faith, ABC inexplicably killed off two OLTL characters on loan to ‘General Hospital’ by having their car forced off a cliff. ABC effectively killed off another major OLTL character – who was not even licensed to ABC – by revealing that this longstanding OLTL character is in fact another character on ‘General Hospital.’ Prospect was neither consulting nor did it approve ABC killing off its characters,” Prospect says in its complaint.
     Prospect Park claims ABC borrowed “One Life to Live” fan favorites Todd, Blair and Starr Manning, John McBain, Cole and Hope Thornhart and Tea Delgado for use on “General Hospital.”
     In addition to sending the Thornharts over a cliff in a fiery car wreck, ABC made Todd Manning a central character on “General Hospital,” and impossible to bring back to OLTL without alienating fans, Prospect says.
     “In other instances, ABC damaged OLTL characters (including characters to which they did not have any rights) by, among other things, creating absurd storylines, having characters do things they would never do (and of which Prospect would never have approved) and destroying critical character relationships popular with soap fans. All of this was done without Prospect’s knowledge, consultation and/or approval, and in direct breach of the license,” Prospect says in its complaint.
     Adding real insult to soap opera injuries, Prospect claims ABC entered into long-term contracts with actors known for their work on “One Life to Live” to keep Prospect from working with them.
     “Prospect is informed and believes and on that basis alleges that at least some of these actors moved their families to Los Angeles not knowing that their characters were on short-term loan to ‘General Hospital’ and that Prospect had rights to get the characters back. Prospect is also informed and believes and on that basis alleges that ABC induced certain OLTL actors not to cooperate with Prospect by, among other things, casting Prospect in a negative light and suggesting incorrectly that Prospect is somehow negatively interfering with their careers. Indeed, in the middle of Prospect’s negotiations with certain actors, ABC went so far as to offer these actors different roles on ‘General Hospital,’ simply to induce them not to work with Prospect,” Prospect says in the complaint.
     Prospect Park thinks it knows why ABC is killing off the characters it licensed back from the new network, and the reasons are worthy of a soap opera: jealousy, greed and revenge.
     “Prospect has since learned that at least one ABC executive responsible for these egregious programming choices has openly declared his desire to see Prospect fail. Whether ABC has acted from a hidden desire to regain control of OLTL, or a basic fear of embarrassment if Prospect succeeds, remains unclear. What is clear is that ABC has breached both the express terms of its contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing that inures to every contract. Despite repeated overtures from Prospect to resolve these issues amicably, ABC refuses to take corrective action and has rebuffed every effort by Prospect to come to reasonable terms. Indeed, ABC has recently added to its long list of breaches by refusing to freely transfer to Prospect the URLs associated with the soaps it purchased, onelifetolive.com and allmychildren.com. These URLs are not only critical to establishing public awareness of the re-launch, but they are part of the rights paid for by Prospect,” Prospect says.
     ABC damaged it by at least $25 million, Prospect says, and it claims it will launch The Online Network and its revamped “One Life to Live” next week.
     “Although ABC is obviously bent on repeating its mistakes of the past, Prospect has no intention of allowing a ‘Soapocalypse II.’ Nor will Prospect permit ABC to continue alienating millions of soap fans anxiously awaiting the re-launch slated for April 29. These shows will go forward, and Prospect will address its rights in court. Regardless of how successful Prospect may be, the fact remains that ABC did not deliver what it promised, Prospect did not get what it paid for and Prospect is now entitled to recover millions of dollars in damages for ABC’s egregious conduct,” Prospect says in its complaint.
     Prospect Park demands $25 million. It is represented by Michael Weinsten with Lavely & Singer.
     (As every soap opera fan knows, “dead” doesn’t necessarily mean dead. “Days of Our Lives” villain Stefano DiMera has died at least a dozen times on the NBC soap – by stroke, heart attack, brain tumor, drowning, fire, gunshot, plane crash, car crash – and by faking his own death.
     (But DiMera lives! -back from the dead after being shot in 2012.)

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