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As part of its recently announced Fast Forward strategy, Channel 4 is switching up the schedule of its ground-breaking soap, Hollyoaks – the first UK soap to move to a genuinely digital first model last year – with a new episode strategy "built around evolving viewing habits". 

From September 2024, the new, data-led drop pattern will see the soap move from five new episodes per week to three on streaming, E4 and YouTube.

Channel 4 say: 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 a drama packed hour-long weekly omnibus episode broadcast on Channel 4 and available to stream. 


The move reflects how young audiences are already consuming Hollyoaks, with Channel 4 data showing that the most loyal soap fans watch an average of three episodes per week. The new strategy will enable the show to cut through more powerfully with fewer, higher impact episodes.


Alongside the episodic changes, Lime Pictures have appointed Hannah Cheers as Executive Producer to lead Hollyoaks’ exciting evolution. Cheers has been interim showrunner since September 2023, overseeing standout, critically acclaimed storylines, including driving the January stunt episode, which along with outstanding production values solidified the success of streaming-first, as well as masterminding the return of iconic characters like Jacqui, Myra, Cleo and Theresa McQueen and Freddie Roscoe. 


While audiences continue to love strong brands and familiarity, they are confronted with ever increasing choice and a growing number of titles. Fewer episodes mean greater focus on the characters and gripping storylines that we know audiences love most. The new format will ensure Hollyoaks stays relevant, competitive, and ahead of the curve in a changing TV market. 


Hollyoaks will continue to focus on being the youngest-skewing and most innovative soap tackling real-life issues in an authentic way. It will offer more spectacular storylines and drama, focusing on fan-favourite characters and their interconnected lives, which research tells us is what viewers want more of. 


It will build on the huge success of recent special episodes, which have demonstrated the way in which concentrated, well-crafted instalments resonate with viewers. 

January’s special episode that featured an explosive multi-vehicle collision, exploding a number of stories and introducing new characters saw streaming views up 62% over the previous four-week average making it the biggest Hollyoaks episode ever on Channel 4 streaming*.


The new digital first streaming pattern for Hollyoaks launched in September last year, is also performing strongly with the show’s streaming views up +33% since November 2023 on the four months prior.


The changes to the drop pattern of the show will have an impact on its production. Channel 4 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.” 


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.”   

Hollyoaks is available on Channel 4.


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