Negotiations between Britain’s Channel 5 and producers FremantleMedia Australia to renew the iconic soapie, now in its 33rd season, are reported to be deadlocked.
Angry UK Neighbours fans have already launched a petition, worried that the show will be axed if talks fail.
Neighbours launched the career of Kylie Minogue. Picture: Mauro Carraro
Aussie fans, who can watch the serial on Channel 10 offshoot Channel Eleven, are concerned too. Channel 5 paid a whopping $500 million in 2007 to screen Neighbours for 10 years but new owners, America’s Viacom, are playing hardball.
Losing any part of the $50 million a year currently generated by the Channel 5 deal could doom the show.
About 150 Australians work on Neighbours.
Madeleine West returned to Neighbours after 13 years. Picture Norm Oorloff
But Ten has sought to allay those fears saying it is confident that the show — which launched the careers of Margot Robbie, Kylie Minogue, Delta Goodrem and Guy Pearce — will continue.
“Every Australian drama needs substantial overseas interest to be financially viable, either through pre-sale or distribution,” Rick Maier, Ten’s head of drama, says.
“But Neighbours continues to outperform Home and Away twice a day in the UK so we have good reasons to be optimistic they (contract negotiations) will be resolved.”
Margot Robbie played Donna Freedman. Delta Goodrem played Nina Tucker. Neighbours’ stars Natalie Imbruglia and Scott Michaelson with a line up of Logies in 1993.
Insiders say the UK deal has become fraught because Viacom’s US chiefs don’t understand the appeal of Neighbours.
“Viacom are refusing to sign off on the figures and not understanding the importance of the show,” a source said.
“Neighbours has become a British TV favourite and it would be a sad day if it were to go.”
But Ten says that Neighbours is crucial in terms of branding and positioning as well as its Australian content obligations and it will do everything in its power to keep it going.
“Reports of Neighbours’ demise aren’t new,” Maier says. “It still has a substantial and dedicated viewership. Its national audience is up nine per cent this year.”
Neighbours’ stars Stefan Dennis, Jackie Woodburne, Alan Fletcher and Ryan Moloney celebrate another milestone. Picture: Channel 10
Meanwhile, Neighbours veteran Alan Fletcher has attempted to calm fears the show will be forced off air.
“In 22 years of being on Neighbours it’s not the first time a tabloid newspaper has suggested that (the show) is in its death throes,” the 59-year-old, who plays Dr Karl Kennedy, told Nova 96.9’s Fitzy And Wippa.
“All I can say is our relationship with our broadcasters at Channel 5 and Channel Eleven couldn’t be better and couldn’t be stronger,” he continued.
“And the stories we’re doing at the moment — particularly right now with Toadie over in London chasing Dee Bliss — that storyline has been probably one of the most successful we’ve ever had in terms of audience numbers and interest.”
Singing superstar Adele revealed that she was among the show’s legion of fans earlier this week when she visited the real-life Ramsay St in Melbourne’s Vermont South.
The chart topper would be glad that FremantleMedia Australia is pushing on with Neighbours filming despite the stalled contract negotiations.
“We enjoy a great working relationship with our broadcast partners and already have some exciting story plans for next year,” a FremantleMedia Australia spokesman says.