The much-loved 37-year-old Australian soap will stop airing in six months if producer Fremantle fails to find another UK co-commissioner. Australia’s Network Ten part funds the show for its 10 Peach channel but will not pay the full amount.
Grade, a former BBC One Controller, ITV Executive Chair and Channel 4 CEO, who has been linked with buying Channel 4 if it were to be privatized, predicted Fremantle will comfortably find a buyer.
“It’s got a readymade audience,” he added, speaking to this morning’s Today program on BBC Radio 4.
“It may not have the audience size that Channel 5 needs to keep the advertisers happy but someone will pick it up. It’s a big brand and will get a lot of publicity.”
Fremantle’s next job is to head out on a promotion spree to pitch the soap.
Channel 5, which picked the Ramsay Street drama up in 2008, has been funding the majority in recent years as viewer size in Australia has shrunk, and the show is an early evening staple for the UK channel.
But having moved into the original drama game several years ago, a tactic that has reaped rewards with hits such as the successful All Creatures Great and Small reboot, ViacomCBS-owned Channel 5 made clear it is concentrating on new scripted shows.
“Neighbours will no longer air on Channel 5 beyond this summer,” said a Channel 5 spokesperson. “We recognise that there will be disappointment about this decision, however our current focus is on increasing our investment in original UK drama, which has strong appeal for our viewers.”
The channel has been reinvigorated under Director of Programmes Ben Frow, firmly planting its tanks on BBC Two and Channel 4’s lawns.
Fremantle will take heart from other shows that have switched channels in recent years.
All Creatures Great and Small was a BBC original, Channel 5 has also picked up BBC format Eggheads and BBC One commissioned a third series of Channel 4 cult hit comedy Toast. In the U.S., Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot of Bravo’s original has proved hugely successful.
Furthermore, Neighbours has a loyal UK fan base and has aired in the nation almost since its inception, when BBC One acquired it.