TODAY’S episode of Neighbours ended with a big bang, which turned out to be rather appropriate.
The explosion just before the closing credits in the lunchtime screening followed on from TV drama of a different kind a few minutes before.
BBC1 controller Peter Fincham appeared in the studio towards the end of the 1pm BBC News to announce he had turned his back on the Aussie soap.
After several weeks of heated negotiations with distributor Fremantle, he revealed that the BBC had pulled out of the bidding.
A few hours’ later came confirmation that Channel Five had snatched the show, with the Neighbours on the move from next spring.
It’s perhaps significant that both Five and Fremantle are owned by the same company – RTL.
ITV had also been in the running for Neighbours.
But they, like the BBC, might also have had concerns about being asked to pay £300m for a new eight year deal.
That’s almost three times what the BBC are paying now for what is, it must be remembered, a daytime show.
Having watched Neighbours since it first came to the screen 21 years ago, I hope it thrives on Five.
They are making all the right noises about how Neighbours will be a “greatly prized” part of their schedule with the series to be “suitably cherished”.
But there are now serious fears that Fremantle may have put the long-term future of the show at risk for short-term gain.
The link between Neighbours and the BBC has always been crucial to the success of the soap.
Ratings for Network 10 screenings in Australia are not great, but here in the UK lunchtime episodes attract around 3m viewers and some 2.6m for the 5.35pm repeat.
“The series is going to a home where such audiences do not exist,” pointed out Mr Fincham.
* Today’s developments come just ahead of BBC1 episodes which will feature some of the Neighbours characters in London.
Among those guest starring in the UK storylines will be Michael Parkinson and former Spice Girl Emma Bunton.
*The official BBC UK Neighbours site is no longer being updated. It now carries the message: “We are reducing the Neighbours website in order to focus resources on support for other shows.”
Neighbours: Australian website