Hollyoaks Move to New Transmission Pattern

  • Date: 18th March 2024


Channel 4 is reducing the number of weekly episodes of its flagship soap Hollyoaks from five to three.  

The cut has been instigated by the PSB’s viewing data, which indicates that the youth-skewing soap’s most loyal viewers watch an average of three episodes each week, as a result of the vast range of content competing for their attention.

It is understood that the cost savings from the reduction in episodes will be reinvested in C4’s content budget and that the broadcaster remains committed to its voluntary target of 50% out-of-London commissioning spend.

The reduced weekly run takes effect from September 2024 and will result in up to 135 redundancies, which represents around a third of Hollyoaks staff.

In a statement (below), head of Bectu Philippa Childs called “it absolutely devastating news for everyone concerned, for the region and for the wider UK TV industry,” adding that the union would do everything it can to support affected members.

Trade union Equity described the move as a “real blow” to the continuing drama genre and aired concerns over a reduction in episode length to 20 minutes. It is working with Lime and its members to ensure the detrimental impact” of the cuts are minimised.

C4 said it will work alongside producer Lime Pictures to mitigate the impact where possible and Lime has sent a letter to employees indicating it is entering a period of consultation with Bectu and all Hollyoaks staff to review the implications of this change in commission.

It added: “Hollyoaks with its unique voice and authentic storytelling, remains at the heart of Channel 4 programming and front and centre of its Digital First strategy. This has been reinforced by a multi-year commitment to the series.”

Ian Katz, C4’s chief creative officer, said that the change in episode volume will usher in a “new era of more scale and impact”, while committing to maintaining the soap’s role in nurturing new talent on- and off-screen.

He added that the soap is on “sparkling creative form” but said the changes “will ensure it remains compulsive viewing for a new generation of fans as viewing habits change.

“The show has always been at the forefront of innovation in all of its forms, including increasing and decreasing episode numbers in response to viewing habits. These changes are a decisive step forward, designed to reflect how audiences are watching. We are of course mindful of the impacts on the production team and will work closely with Lime Pictures to minimise these where possible.”

Hollyoaks became a digital-exclusive series in September when C4 dropped its linear TX on its main channel in favour of streaming it on its VoD service ahead of broadcasting it on E4 and YouTube. This decision was made to align with how young viewers consume content. By November, its streaming views were up 33% on the previous four months’ figures.

The existing pattern of premiering episodes on C4’s VoD, ahead of TX on E4 and streaming on YouTube a week later will continue and an hour-long weekly omnibus will also be available on C4 and on streaming.

Kate Little and Claire Poyser, managing directors of Lime, said that the rationale behind the move is adapting to the viewing habits of young viewers.

“Given the success of the new streaming-first model, we are delighted that Hollyoaks remains at the forefront of Channel 4’s digital first strategy,” they said.

“There are implications that will mean we have to reshape Hollyoaks’ production model and amidst the buoying news for the future of the show and its audience, we must also acknowledge that a reduction in cast and crew, will be very difficult and we will support everyone in that process.”

Ben Wadey, C4 commissioning executive for Hollyoaks, noted that the drama initially launched with one weekly episode in 1995, before moving to three in 1999, with the current schedule of five weekly instalments introduced in 2003.

He said: “In 2024 we must flex again, as we have always done, to best serve our audiences and keep our young-skewing soap in step with young viewers. We’re not afraid of change, it has been key to Hollyoaks’ longevity so far and will be the key to its future.”

Executive producer appointment

Hannah Cheers

The change coincides with Lime appointing Hannah Cheers as Hollyoaks’ executive producer, leading the soap into its 30th anniversary celebrations next year.

She assumed the head role in an interim capacity in September, and succeeds Lucy Allan, who stepped down in August. Cheers has overseen January’s stunt episode, as well as the return of iconic characters Jacqui, Myra, Cleo and Theresa McQueen and Freddie Roscoe to the village.

She worked on the Chester-based drama for 12 years from 2009, before leaving to produce ITV1 soap Emmerdale.

Katz hailed Cheers as “passionate, rigorous and has an outstanding track record of finding and developing talent”, while Little and Poyser said they looked forward to her stewardship of the soap as it reaches a landmark year.

Cheers said that she was privileged to lead Hollyoaks into its fourth decade and drive the “vision of this transition”.

She added: “There may be speculation about the future of continuing drama, but as someone who was brought up on the nation’s soaps – and remains a true fan – I believe their value must not be underestimated.

“Soap audiences grow up alongside their favourite characters over a period of many years; the investment in their stories is huge. The genre’s ability to initiate important conversations is unparalleled, especially when it all comes served up with joy, humour and jaw-dropping twists. I want future generations to experience that.”

To read more from Cheers, click here.

Bectu statement

Responding to the redundancies, Childs said: “This is absolutely devastating news for everyone concerned, for the region and for the wider UK TV industry. We will do everything we can to support our affected members during this incredibly difficult time.

“For decades Hollyoaks has entertained generations and it is the hardworking and talented crew who brought the iconic storylines to life. It has also provided brilliant employment opportunities and skills development for film and TV workers in the north west, and has served as an incubator of talent for the entire industry. Today’s announcement is a huge loss for the whole sector.

“Earlier this week we sounded the alarm on an escalating crisis in the UK’s film and TV industry, in which thousands of workers are bearing the brunt of a severe work drought.

“The entire industry is facing a very challenging time and while difficult decisions must be made as production companies meet changing audience needs, it is the workforce who is hit hardest – many of whom have dedicated decades of their lives to this career.

“We hear a lot from government about how much it values the creative industries and their huge economic contribution. Today’s announcement is a sobering reminder that, despite recent assertions from the Culture Secretary, all is not well in the UK TV industry and urgent government intervention and industry collaboration is needed.”


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