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Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks to air fewer episodes each week

Hollyoaks will have fewer episodes each week, Channel 4 has announced.

The soap, airing on streaming, E4 and YouTube, will move from five weekly instalments to three from September.

The channel explained the decision by saying this is the “optimum pattern to keep heartland audiences hooked and attract new ones in a highly saturated content market” based on Channel 4 data.

Most regular soap viewers watch an average of three episodes per week, according to its research.

Ian Katz, chief content officer at Channel 4, 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 (production company) Lime Pictures to minimise these where possible.”

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

The broadcaster previously announced it would take a streaming-first approach with the soap and will put episodes of Hollyoaks on YouTube a week after they are broadcast on E4 and streamed on its own platform.

Meanwhile, Lime Pictures has appointed Hannah Cheers, who had been interim showrunner since September, as Hollyoaks executive producer.

Communications Committee meeting
Ian Katz is the chief content officer at Channel 4 (House of Commons/PA)

Mr Katz said: “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 30 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.”

Channel 4 said it also hopes fewer episodes will be of a “higher impact” and have a “greater focus on the characters and gripping storylines that we know audiences love most”.

The soap, aimed at a young demographic, has seen concentrated instalments recently.

January’s special episode featured a multi-vehicle collision, which created a number of stories and introduced new characters.

Ms Cheers 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.”

Ben Wadey, Channel 4 commissioning executive for drama, pointed out that “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”.

He added: “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’s longevity so far and will be the key to its future.”