Channel 4 has announced that long-running soap Hollyoaks will be cut to three episodes a week from its usual five.

The changes will take place from September this year when the show will move to a “drop pattern built around evolving viewing habits” with three new episodes each week on Streaming, E4 and YouTube

Channel 4 says that “extensive research has identified this as the optimum pattern to keep heartland audiences hooked and attract new ones in a highly saturated content market.”

There will also be an hour-long weekly omnibus episode broadcast on Channel 4 and available to stream.

Alongside the episodic changes, Lime Pictures has appointed Hannah Cheers as Executive Producer “to lead Hollyoaks’ exciting evolution.” Cheers has been interim showrunner since September 2023.

Channel 4 owns that the changes “will have an impact on its production” and says it will “work alongside Lime Pictures to minimise these impacts where possible.”

Ian Katz, Chief Content Officer said: “Hollyoaks is on sparkling creative form at the moment and these 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. A tighter schedule promises a new era of more scale and impact. We are of course mindful of the impacts on the production team and will work closely with Lime Pictures to minimise these where possible.

“We are also delighted that the brilliant Hannah Cheers will be leading Hollyoaks into its fourth decade. Hannah is passionate, rigorous and has an outstanding track record of finding and developing talent.

“Hollyoaks has played a crucial role in nurturing talent for nearly thirty years, and we are excited to continue to develop new opportunities and nurture the stars of tomorrow. I would like to thank all the Hollyoaks cast and crew who have been involved in the programme since its inception.”

Head of film and TV workers union, Bectu, Philippa Childs reacted to the news of the cutbacks saying: “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.”

MDs of Lime Pictures, Kate Little and Claire Poyser said: “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, bringing authentic, unexpected and untold stories that inspire younger audiences in a way that they want to consume them.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Hannah Cheers will lead the show into its next exciting chapter. Evidently 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.”

Hannah Cheers, Executive Producer said: “Hollyoaks offers a unique proposition: bold, escapist, relatable, youth-skewing and multi-generational stories, told in its innovative and technicolour signature style. The show continues to bring people together by making them feel something, and everything. Approaching its 30th anniversary in 2025, Hollyoaks matters just as much now as it did at its trailblazing launch.

“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.”

“I am honoured to lead Hollyoaks into its fourth decade on Channel 4 and drive the vision of this transition.”

Ben Wadey, Channel 4 Commissioning Executive for Hollyoaks said: “In January I promised a blockbuster year for Hollyoaks and after a powerful start with our breath-taking hour long special, there’s no let-up in momentum. At Hollyoaks we have always been brave, leading the way and not only tackling stories that others wouldn’t dare to, but changing and evolving to the needs of our viewers. Don’t forget Hollyoaks initially launched with just one episode per week in 1995, gradually increasing to two in 1996, three in 1999, four in 2001 and finally five in 2003.But now 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.”   

Jon Creamer

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