A new era begins this autumn.

Hollyoaks spoilers follow.

Whether you’re a superfan, an occasional viewer or you’ve never seen an episode, there’s no denying that Hollyoaks’ current downsizing process is one of the biggest soap bombshells of the year.

The long-running Channel 4 show is currently gearing up for a permanent episode reduction this autumn, which has sadly led to job losses among cast, crew and writers.

News about Hollyoaks’ future has been coming thick and fast since the initial announcement dropped in late February. Here’s our full guide to all the changes fans can expect in September – and why it’s all happening.

Fewer episodes per week

Lime Pictures

The biggest and most obvious change coming for Hollyoaks is a permanent drop in weekly episodes.

From September, Hollyoaks will only air three times a week and the episodes will be slightly shorter, with a run time of 20 minutes.

So far, there has been no word on which days the show will air, but it will continue screening on E4 and dropping episodes early on Channel 4 streaming. Fans can also expect a weekly hour-long omnibus episode on Channel 4, with this version available to stream too.

When Channel 4 made the announcement, the broadcaster blamed changing viewing habits for the cutbacks. According to research, many fans are only watching three episodes a week because of the vast amount of competing content available to watch on other platforms.

Lime Pictures

Ben Wadey, Channel 4 commissioning executive for Hollyoaks, recently commented: “Don’t forget 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.

“But now 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’ longevity so far and will be the key to its future.”

There’s a wider context to consider too. Hollyoaks’ linear viewing figures have declined in recent years, as Channel 4 acknowledged publicly in its annual report in July 2022.

Despite this, the soap reliably rates at the top or thereabouts on the ‘Most Popular’ section of Channel 4 streaming each day. As Channel 4 is prioritising a digital-first future, it still sees Hollyoaks as a key programme because of its popularity on streaming.

Lime Pictures

Fans have praised a change in direction for the show since the appointment of Hannah Cheers as executive producer late last year. The January crash episode, overseen by Cheers and her team, was Hollyoaks’ most-streamed episode ever excluding Christmas specials.

It’s also no secret that Channel 4 is currently facing financial pressures due to a downturn in advertising revenue across the industry. This could have also affected the decision to downsize Hollyoaks, although the broadcaster has said that all savings will be reinvested back into Channel 4’s content budget.

While the cutbacks sparked dismay among fans, Channel 4 confirmed that it was all part of a multi-year renewal deal for Hollyoaks which will see the show continue airing for the 30th anniversary in October 2025 and beyond.

A smaller cast

Lime Pictures

Hollyoaks will focus on a smaller cast once the changes come into force in September. This is because overall headcount at Hollyoaks is being reduced as part of the new deal with Channel 4.

This was first announced in late February alongside the news of the permanent episode reduction. Performers union Equity then released a lengthy statement of concern, lamenting “worrying days for continuing drama”.

Kate Little and Claire Poyser, managing directors of Hollyoaks’ production company Lime Pictures, commented: “Given the success of the new streaming-first model, we are delighted that Hollyoaks remains at the forefront of Channel 4’s digital first strategy.

“There are implications that will mean we have to reshape Hollyoaks’ production model and amidst the buoying news for the future of the show and its audience, we must also acknowledge that a reduction in cast and crew will be very difficult and we will support everyone in that process.”

Lime Pictures

Tabloid reports have suggested that around 20 cast members will be culled as part of the changes.

Hollyoaks bosses haven’t publicly confirmed this number so far, as the show has been focusing on supporting the cast through an ongoing consultation period.

Stephanie Waring, who has played fan favourite Cindy Cunningham since 1996, is the first cast member to confirm a departure resulting from the cuts.

Writing on her social media pages this week, Stephanie explained: “As an actress obviously I understand there are no jobs for life but with my 28 years on the show I hoped that Cindy would survive the exciting revamp and continue into its new era, especially as I began playing her in 1996, making me the only original cast member remaining to be included in the cast cull, which I can only describe as gutting.

Lime Pictures

“I was given the chance to say I had chosen to quit the show to spare me any embarrassment of revealing that I’ve been axed, which was very kind but I don’t want to lie to the fans who have followed Cindy’s journey for nearly 3 decades as I believe they know she nor I would ever have left the show by choice.

“Hollyoaks is in my blood and I have loved every minute of walking in Cindy’s heels.”

The changes are likely to mean that the remaining cast will appear in the show more often, with fewer storylines and a tighter focus.

Executive producer Hannah Cheers commented: “The new three episode pattern offers us a different model of storytelling, which means we’ll see characters on screen for much longer.”

A smaller crew and writing team

Lime Pictures

The Hollyoaks cuts don’t just affect those who appear in front of the cameras – the people who work behind the scenes have been badly affected too.

In late February, it was announced that the Hollyoaks cutbacks could lead to the loss of 135 jobs – around a third of the programme’s staff.

This means that some long-serving crew and writers will sadly be saying goodbye to the show. The cuts were recently branded “devastating” by the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (Bectu).

A one-year time jump

Lime Pictures

As so many cast members will be leaving in the autumn, Hollyoaks has decided that not every character will get a huge exit storyline.

Rather than write in an endless supply of goodbye scenes, Hollyoaks has opted to unleash a one-year time jump to help explain why so many characters have left.

Neighbours adopted a similar technique last year when it returned following a 13-month break. The show jumped ahead by two years to explain why a large number of characters no longer lived on Ramsay Street.

Hollyoaks’ executive producer Hannah Cheers recently said: “Fast-forwarding the show permanently by a year presents us with unlimited story possibilities. We are now a streaming-first soap and can lean into less-restricting and conventional structures.

Lime Pictures

“Very sadly, we are going to have to say goodbye to some much-loved Hollyoaks villagers – and some earlier than we would have expected to. Every single one of our cast members is immensely talented and hard-working; reducing the team in size is a tough consequence of this transition.

“It’s not kind to our characters or our audience to have a drawn-out stream of goodbyes on screen and a heightened stunt didn’t feel like the right approach. We also want the flexibility to see favourite characters again and we got really excited about how this would work.

“We believe this creative approach will celebrate the uniqueness of Hollyoaks and will serve and honour our amazing characters – throwing us forward into exciting new territory as we pave the way to our 30th anniversary in 2025.”

In the meantime…

Lime Pictures

Episodes currently airing on screen were storylined months before Channel 4’s decision to downsize Hollyoaks.

Some fans have questioned the decision to bring in new characters and lure back former cast when jobs are under threat, but recently announced returns and newbies have all been in the works for months. These are part and parcel of the regular comings and goings in soaps.

4yardsmedia also understands that there will still be pre-planned cast departures in the coming months that are unrelated to the cuts.

One example is Jamie Lomas, who has publicly confirmed that he was already intending to leave before Channel 4’s cuts were announced, while others have yet to be revealed.

Hollyoaks streams first online via Channel 4 each weekday at 7.30pm. Episodes then air on E4 the following day, before getting their YouTube premiere a week after that.

Selected omnibus episodes are available via Prime Video.

Read more Hollyoaks spoilers on our dedicated homepage


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here