First aired on December 9th 1960, Coronation Street was originally 13 episodes named Florizel Street. It is now the longest running serial drama in the world and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Currently aired five times a week on ITV1, it averages ten million viewers an episode and is something of a national institution in the UK. Indeed, it is the only TV drama to ever be commented on in Parliament: when Deirdre was sent to prison, the then PM Tony Blair spoke about the ‘Free the Weatherfield One’ campaign.
The licensing programme, too, has been steadily growing. It currently stands at 30 licensees, taking in products including beer, gifts and novelties, calendars, games and puzzles, dress-up, food, greetings, DVDs, publishing, toiletries, arts and crafts, car accessories, home textiles and apparel, to name just a few.
A wave of commemorative products are due to launch ahead of the milestone anniversary in December, including collectibles, plus special editions of popular products like calendars and jigsaws.
On top of this, ITV has put together a Best of British Brands promotion, involving six family brands from the north of England: Warburtons, Imperial Leather, Typhoo, Holland’s Pies, JW Lees and Harveys.
The partners will feature exclusively created Coronation Street promotional artwork and branding on product, retail, outdoor, multiplatform and event marketing. Events to date include a life-size recreation of the Rover’s Return, made entirely from Warburton’s bakery products, with the next being hosted at the Arndale Centre in Manchester on June 19th and 20th, featuring all the partners. Campaigns from Imperial Leather and Holland’s Pies are also running online, with more due to be launched over the summer and in the second half of the year.
A number of UK charities have also been chosen to benefit from a variety of activity. GMTV, This Morning and Granada Reports will be working with NSPCC and Cancer Research UK, plus local organisations The Christie and Moodswings throughout the coming year. In addition, collectible products will hit retail in the autumn in support of the charities.
Away from the merchandise and promotional side of things, long time show script writer Jonathan Harvey has put together a stage show, which will take in more than 7,000 episodes and 2,000 storylines, including 115 deaths, 37 births and 86 marriages, in under two hours. Coronation Street Abridged Live will debut in August at The Lowry in Salford, before heading out on a nationwide tour. There will also be a Coronation Street documentary, due to be shown on BBC4 as part of the BBC’s Northern Week, while ITV is also planning special on-screen commemorative programming, plus further DVD launches in Q4. A HD launch is also approaching on May 31st.
It’s shaping up to be a bumper anniversary year and even royalty has become involved in the celebrations. Earlier this year, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall visited the set, meeting cast and crew and pulling a pint in the Rover’s. She was presented with a special brooch portraying Hilda Ogden’s famous flying ducks.
“Coronation Street appeals to all generations and has a huge, dedicated fanbase,” Giles Ridge, head of merchandising and licensing at ITV Studios Global Entertainment, explains. “The show continues to go from strength to strength, while the dedicated events mean we can actually bring it to the consumer. The 2010 product ranges will act as a springboard for further product development in 2011. Coronation Street is 50 years young.”