TEN's long-running soap is changing channels, but the alternative may have been worse.
After 25 years on TEN (and four months originally on Seven) the perennial soapie is on the move.
In the 6:30pm time slot the show has struggled of late. Its ratings average around 600,000 against current affairs shows that are twice the figure, or more. Yet Neighbours still does well with its core audience of 16-39-year olds.
TEN doesn't make any revenue from the UK deal with Five, which helps fill the coffers of producers FremantleMedia. So its main commitment to the show, which has helped prop up the network for over two decades, is in the crucial local drama points the show delivers.
Network TEN chief programming officer David Mott said: "Neighbours is an important and cherished member of the Network TEN family."
"We believe Neighbours is perfectly suited to Eleven's audience strategy and will find a successful and enduring home on Eleven. We will round out the first 25 years with a bang, and give Australia's most successful drama a new home to keep it vibrant in the schedule for the next 25."
However, under current government regulations TEN won't get any points from Neighbours on Eleven. Dramas have to run on premium channels between 5-11pm to gain necessary points. This is currently a point of some discussion within the industry.
With the success of Rush and the promise shown by Offspring TEN's options have improved. But alone they are unlikely to meet the drama quota, meaning TEN may yet announce another prime-time drama series or telemovies. Hawke performed well for TEN and delivers four times the points of a serial episode. If TEN was really sneaky it might even purchase more New Zealand drama, which attracts content points under the Free Trade Agreement.
But it's not all bad.
The alternative for Neighbours may have been the axe. On Eleven it will be the channel's flagship show, and one of the few local productions on a digital channel. The show is also remaining in the same time slot to diminish the impact of the shift. With just one button push from TEN to Eleven, viewers will still be able to marvel at the antics in Ramsay Street. A youthful audience such as TEN's should be well-placed to make that switch.
Meanwhile, the show remains a favourite of Five where its 10-year contract with FremantleMedia doesn't expire until 2018.