News - Soap Buzz

27 January 9th, 2014 Former One Life to Live Co-Head Writer Sam Hall Sues ABC Over Royalties!


The former co-head writer of One Life to Live Sam Hall is suing ABC for what he claims are royalties owed when the iconic soap opera transitioned to the web via Hulu and iTunes, and was broadcast during the “Summer Fling With The Soaps” summer soap-block of the revival of the series  on OWN via Prospect Park, who licensed the rights to both programs from Disney/ABC in 2011.

Hall served as a co-head writer of the soap opera in the mid-1980s, filed a lawsuit in New York state court.  According to the complaint, ABC made a deal in 1984 with Wildercliff, Ltd. for Hall’s writing services. The agreement is said to have entitled Hall to a weekly royalty “as long as the One Life to Live series is broadcast.”

The Hollywood Reporter details,  “A copy of the agreement was included as an exhibit in the lawsuit. The royalty payment was $1,000 per week, and it’s not spelled out whether “broadcast” is restricted to network television. Hall says he got those weekly royalties until Jan. 13, 2012, when the series ended on ABC.  Now, Hall is stepping up to stake a claim that his old contract entitles him to royalties from that period.

“Each week during which such exhibitions by each authorized entity occurred Hall was entitled to be paid the weekly royalties,” says the complaint. “Despite due demand, Hall has not been paid any of the weekly royalties to which he is entitled for the exhibition of the series by Prospect Park Productions, iTunes, Hulu and OWN, which total in excess of $50,000.”    ABC could not be reached for comment.

So what do you think of the latest legal problems involving One Life to Live?  Let us know!

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  1. Phil says:

    Out of control!


  2. Max says:

    OWN is a network and networks broadcast. Sounds like ABC needs to pull out the checkbook and pay up. Happy to see someone light a little fire under them and stand up for themselves! Too bad ABC can’t be sued for bad decision-making, as in the decision to axe a couple of great soaps. They’d be bankrupt if that could be done…


    Llanviewer717 replied

    “Too bad ABC can’t be sued for bad decision-making….” I’ll drink to that.


    CTwildheart replied

    Me too!

    tali replied

    and so will I.

    Don replied

    There are potentially two areas were ABC could be liable for what they did to AMC/OLTL. Disney/ABC owns many stations which are licensed by the FCC and so they are supposed to operate “in the public interest.” A case could be made that they put profits ahead of the viewer’s interests. Disney is a publicly traded stockholder owned corporation and so are regulated by the SEC. A case might be made that they did not operate in the shareholders best interest by scrapping potentially profitable properties with AMC/OLTL. I am a bit surprised a fan group hasn’t tried this by now. Just a thought. ;-) Let the suing commence.

    (Working late and bored)

    JeffyJC replied

    Legally in the entertainment business, A Broadcast Network is a network that has affiliate all over the country like the ABC CBS and the newer diginets Like Me TV Antenna TV and Retro TV. Cable is a different thing. Just as ONLINE Viewing is a different thing, they all have their own rules.
    The cost for a Cable channel like Familynet to air NEWHART is less then what a Broadcast Network like ME TV would have to pay. That is what ME TV said on their Facebook page.

    When Prospect Park first started with the plan to go ONLINE they had to work with the Unions, to lower the cost. based on the fact that it will be airing online and downloaded.


    Kelly replied

    If this lawsuit prevails, it’s not a good thing as this will be an added expense to any hope whatsoever of these 2 shows EVER finding an online home. This would be the final nail in the coffin.

  3. Johnny says:

    I remember seeing the name Sam Hall in the closing credits. THIRTY FREAKING YEARS AGO!!!!! What is wrong with some people that they would rather sue than work for a living???


    Michael (not Fairman) replied

    Royalties are a standard part of contracts for creative services; in the case of soaps, they recognize that creative contributions have value well beyond the immediate need they fill. (I don’t know if it’s still the case, but I know that at least as recently as the early 2000s, headwriters on P&G soaps got royalties so long as any character they created while they were headwriter was still part of the show.) Soap creators get royalties so long as the soap they create is on the air; I don’t see anything wrong with headwriters negotiating similar provisions. (Whether $1,000 a week forever is reasonable is an open question and debatable, of course, but apparently somebody thought so at the time the contract was negotiated, or he wouldn’t have gotten it, and if that’s what the contract says, they should pay up.) Another thing to keep in mind: in the mid-1980s, soaps were still enormously profitable for the networks–they even supported nighttime television. $1,000 a week for life might not have been an unreasonable cut to expect, though of course it seems outrageous by today’s standards, with soaps so much less profitable.

    I don’t think it has as much to do with laziness as with recognition that there was no job security and that soap writers got hired and fired, often on what amounted to whims. That was true in the 1980s and is equally true or more so today. I doubt anybody is getting the kind of contract clause any more that’s being discussed here, but I would not hold it against them if they did. To me, it’s not all that different from a pension, in a field with no job security and no retirement plan.


    JeffyJC replied

    $1,000 dollars a week for one person is $52,000 dollars a year for 1 person not even involved in the show anymore. Though ABC did agree to that contract so you get what you pay for, but it’s no wonder it costs over $50 Million a year to produce 1 soap


  4. brian says:

    gees… perhaps all of OLTL fans could sue ABC for breaking our hearts and cancelling our beloved show…

    just as absurd !


  5. Kate A says:

    I hope everyone sues ABC. In fact maybe all the fans of AMC and OLTL could have a class action lawsuit based on our pain and suffering! Maybe we could all get disability. I know I have suffered and am not able to cope with life as well as I used to! As always, boo to all things ABCDISNEY!


  6. jimh(leave it to beaver) says:

    I dont think he’ll win…technically speaking Prospect Park was now responsible for airing the show on OWN not ABC regardless if ABC still owned the series, so Sam Hall it seems could only sue if ABC was airing the show which they are not so it seems the contract would no longer be valid unless it includes another co. airing the show on a network other than ABC…i know nothing about these things so my comments probably dont matter…Sam Hall used to write for another soap Dark Shadows and his late wife Grayson Hall appeared on it as Dr. Julia Hoffman who attempted to cure Barnabas Collins of his vampirisim and fell in love with him…she also played other characters on the show during various time travels storylines and also appeared on OLTL with Nancy Barret and the late Anthony George who also appeared with her on Dark Shadows!


  7. jonboy says:

    This royalty stuff is nonsense. You do a job, you get paid for it. Why should you continue to be paid for that work years later?


    Avatar610 replied

    Because it’s the law!! Actors still get paid residuals for film and TV work done years ago, and so do writers. In this case the deal Mr. Hall struck with ABC thirty years ago gave him residuals even after he left the show. Let’s say if you were a recording artist and had a hit record back in the 60s, and you discovered that you weren’t getting royalties in 2014 despite that recording being used in commercials, movie soundtracks and the like, you’d demand the back royalties owed you by the record company. You could file suit against the current owners of the record company and win in court. This happens ALL the time. Just ask performers like Martha Reeves, Ronnie Spector, and Tommy James- all of who sued and won back their overdue royalties. Thanks to unions like AFTRA/SAG and in Mr. Hall’s case, The Writer’s Guild of America, laws were created to protect artists so they could get their share of corporate profits. Jonboy, would YOU like to be ripped off by a major corporation when you know that under the law you have a right to earn money for your past work as it is still making money? That’s the case here. Mr. Hall is well within his rights.


    jonboyelk replied

    I understand what you’re saying within the entertainment business but I don’t “get” it logically. If I do a job for my company, lets say I create a new spreadsheet, should I get paid every time someone uses it? I’ve already been paid for doing the job by my company. ABC, or whoever, paid Hall when he wrote the show. Why should he, or anyone else, be paid again and again for doing something they were already paid for?

  8. mgb357 says:

    Lawsuits are a bane to our existence,

    Yet another frivolous reason to keep OLTL off the air.

    30 years – come on….but are there other deals like this ?

    maybe this is why ABC shut down their soaps, because of bad deals made in the eighties.

    Bring back OLTL!


    Avatar610 replied

    You’d be surprised. When Audrey Meadows signed on to play Alice Kramden in “The Honeymooners”, she had a very smart manager who made sure that there was a clause that she would get residuals ‘in perpetuity’- that is, AS LONG AS SHE LIVED! Who knew back then that the show would be on the air nonstop over the decades? Ms. Meadows got residual checks from that show for decades! Before the laws were changed in the 80s, there were limits as to the years a performer could get residuals from old TV shows.


  9. JeffyJC says:

    $1,000 dollars a week. That is the reason why we don’t see Soaps repeated on the Subchannels like ME TV . The cost for the Royalities for music and writers, and actors etc which is much higher for a Broadcast Network then it is for Cable. Plus the fact that Drama’s especially serialized ones don’t repeat that well.


  10. Avatar610 says:

    ABC obviously didn’t read the fine print in their own contacts with Mr. Hall and with Prospect Park! This could set a big precedent in regards to online materials and royalties from such programming. I read somewhere that some soap writers will get residuals for years to come as long as characters they created stay on the show. That’s one reason why when a soap changes writers, some writers are more than happy to get rid of some old characters and add some of their own. Considering that Mr. Hall was the head writer at OLTL in its most popular era (mid 70s- mid-80s), he was responsible for a great deal of long-running characters and stories on the show. He created the Buchanans, Tina, Renee, Cassie and others that stayed on for years. It seems like ABC gave him carte blanche with that 1984 contract, and the fact that he got money for years afterwards seems to be in his favor. ABC leased the show (along with characters created by Sam Hall like Clint and Bo Buchanan) to Prospect Park, and he may just have a case against ABC. It reminds me of when Walt Disney signed Peggy Lee to write and records songs for “Lady & the Tramp” in the 1950s. There was a clause in the contract guaranteeing Ms. Lee royalties for all future transcriptions. When the film made it to home video in the 1980s, she sued Disney for royalties, as she argued that the home videos were transcriptions under her 1954 deal. She wound up winning over $2 million in court from Disney! And now that Disney owns ABC, it’s deja vu all over again, only this time it’s a writer regarding one of their shows!


  11. CTwildheart says:

    When I think of royalties I think of someone getting paid for their past creative work. Usually residuals/royalties are for the rebroadcast of their show (syndication) – regardless of what network/channel carried it. So as a writer of a soap, when you stop working for that soap – it does not get rebroadcast again (usually) and there would be no royalties. IF it were for characters said writer created ‘as long as they were on the canvas’, then I understand it.
    If that truly is the case, then it looks like abc/d may have to pay up.


  12. Christy says:

    I’m sure someone will point out that when the contract was made in 1984 – that broadcast meant TV or radio. There was no video on the web, and OWN station isn’t ABC nor did ABC allow OWN to play these new web shows on the OWN station… that would be Prospect.

    as far as what someone’s contract said about royalities, wouldn’t all other writers have had similar statements in their contracts as well?


  13. Tom Welles says:

    ABC-TV made the worst decision in television History when they cancelled the beloved ALL MY CHILDREN as well as OLTL ~ whatever bad Karma comes their way now is much deserved.
    Although I wasn’t overly thrilled with the shows as “On-line” inceptions, I was grateful to see some of the characters and some familiar faces again. Now, who knows if these shows will ever see the light of day again ~ seems doubtful, but one never knows….if the Execs at ABC had half a brain they would combine both shows…


  14. MK says:

    The Hall deal was with ABC and any new deal would be with PP. Most royalty contracts are when the characters the head writer creates is still on the show. He Created Clint and Bo, so it makes since that he has the deal. OWN probly just paid flat licence fee to re-broadcast.


  15. Robert C says:

    The only way that he might get any more money is because Soapnet I think was carrying reruns of One Life to Live until that station went off the air.


  16. cosmina lipstone says:

    ABC pay MR.Hall his money


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