Neighbours 'will hit 30 years'

Last updated 17:33 08/03/2013

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Australia's longest running soap Neighbours continues to defy the hallowed ratings system on which television networks heavily base their programming decisions.

The programme attracts around 250,000 viewers an episode on Australian digital channel Eleven, far fewer than Network Ten's 2012 shockers Being Lara Bingle or The Shire.

Even on Thursday, Neighbours had fewer viewers than courtroom reality series Judge Judy. Yet the Ramsay St soap, now in its 28th year, powers on to the point that production company FremantleMedia has just spent more than $1 million adding to its Erinsborough backlot.

The facades of the Ramsay St homes are still in Pin Oak Court, Vermont South. But the backyards for numbers 22, 26 and 32 Ramsay St, are now located next to Charlie's Bar, Lassiter's Hotel and Harold's Store on the Neighbours backlot at Global Television Studio in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

The backyards contain pools, spas and entertainment areas and they'll start appearing on Australian TV in May and in the UK in June.

FremantleMedia claims the Neighbours backlot is possibly the biggest in the southern hemisphere and it's all for a series that pulls just a quarter of a million viewers a night in Australia.

Executive producer Richard Jasek said there is more to Neighbours' success than ratings alone.

"Neighbours is more than a numbers game," Jasek said.

"The fact it has survived as long as it has with numbers that  aren't as big as they were once, shows its appeal in other ways.

"If Channel Seven had Neighbours and it was rating 300,000 they wouldn't keep it on.

"The show has a financial logic to it because it has strong overseas sales as well."

A Danish television network has just bought the rights to Neighbours, it's still being screened twice a day on UK television and it's consistently the number one show on digital TV in Australia.

It's one of Australia's best television exports and it's a tourism ad by stealth.

Jasek said at its peak the show was screened in more than 65 countries.

"The ratings in Australia aren't the only story as we sell very well overseas," Jasek said.

"Putting together all of that, the show has a huge viewership around the world.

"We just had a sale to Denmark so it is going to rolling out in Scandinavia now."

The new backlot means international fans will get to witness more of Australia's outdoor lifestyle.

Cast members can also rest assured that the latest investment in the series, which first started in the Seven Network in 1985, will be around for at least another two years for its 30th anniversary.

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"We generally hooked up for a good year in advance," Jasek said.

"We are definitely going to be here in two years time and we are going to be doing some very special things for our 30th."

- AAP

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