Britain’s Channel 5 has inked a new and expanded deal for “Neighbours” that will see more episodes of the long-running Australian soap produced, plus several new specials planned for primetime, Variety has learned.
The agreement follows lengthy talks between the Viacom-owned channel and FremantleMedia, which had sparked concern that “Neighbours” could disappear from British screens after having been a programming fixture for more than 30 years. Negotiations were reported to have stalled and then resumed, with the two companies finally agreeing on a new deal to secure the show’s future and expand the number of episodes aired.
Currently there are 240 episodes of the show produced a year. That will increase to 258, plus the new specials, the final number of which is not yet known. The extended episodes order means that from 2018 the show will run year-round and through the winter holiday period.
“Just as our characters span generations, so do the people that watch ‘Neighbours,'” series executive producer Jason Herbision said. “We value our global audiences and are delighted to stay on this journey together. Come the end of 2018 we will also make history by becoming the first Australian drama series to screen all year round.”
The series has iconic status in the U.K. It first hit British shores in 1986, and went on to launch the careers of Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, and Jason Donovan. The daily soap has been on Channel 5 since 2008 after transferring from the BBC.
It remains a ratings winner for the free-to-air network and is its top daytime show in 2017, with a peak audience of 1.2 million. The broadcaster strips it through the week at 1.45pm and 5.30pm.
The series is produced by FremantleMedia Australia for Channel 5 and for Network Ten’s digital channel Eleven in Australia. “From small beginnings over 30 years ago, ‘Neighbours’ has grown to become one of the most iconic shows on television, a mainstay of the FremantleMedia drama catalog and, with the possible exception of Kylie herself, Australia’s No. 1 export,” FremantleMedia CEO Cécile Frot-Coutaz said.
“I’m delighted ‘Neighbours’ will continue to air across the Channel 5 portfolio,” added Channel 5’s acquisition boss Katie Keenan. “’Neighbours’ is an important part of our schedule and is held in great affection by British viewers.”