UK Broadcaster, Five, Launches Broadband Video-Enabled Web Portal for Soap Operas

--Portal Offers Full-Length Episodes of Five's Own Soaps, Links to Episodes of Other Broadcasters' Soaps

UK terrestrial broadcaster, Five, launched a broadband video-enabled Web portal called Holy Soap (, Thursday, which it describes as "dedicated to Britain's unofficial religion": TV soap operas. The site replaces the standalone Web sites that Five previously offered for its Australian soap operas, "Neighbours" and "Home & Away," and offers full episodes of those shows shortly after their broadcast (Five says that up to 30 days of full episodes of the shows will be available on the site, all free-of-charge).

However, the site--which, interestingly, features almost none of the broadcaster's own branding--is designed not just as a showcase for Five's own soap operas, but as a portal for viewers of all the UK's most popular soaps, including ITV's "Coronation Street" and "Emmerdale," the BBC's "EastEnders," and Channel 4's "Hollyoaks." Among other things, it offers links to full episodes of soap operas on the BBC's, ITV's and Channel 4's Web sites; image galleries; soap opera news; video spoilers; exclusive interviews; cast and character profiles; and full episode guides with information on storylines up to seven days in advance. "We're not precious. We know that soap fans have voracious appetites and that many of the same people who love 'Neighbours' and 'Home & Away' love the soaps on the other channels too," the head of Five's Digital Media Group, Jonathan Lewis, said in a prepared statement. "So it makes sense to create a destination where individuals can share their love of all the big soaps on TV. And who knows? We may drive some 'Corrie' fans or 'EastEnders' aficionados to rediscover the joys of Five's Aussie soaps too. Whatever your favorite soap, we're confident that Holy Soap will be the first place you'll visit to find out about the shows you love to watch."

According to Five, the Holy Soap site was designed by Taglab and developed by Unboxed. The broadcaster says that its Five Sales arm will sell video advertising around the online episodes and previews of "Home & Away" and "Neighbours," while digital media agency Unanimis will sell the site's display advertising. The new site is not the first extension into vertical categories for Five's Digital Media Group, which previously launched Five Fwd, a cars and gadgets portal for young men that features full episodes of "The Gadget Show" and "Fifth Gear." The broadcaster also says that the group will shortly unveil a cricket-related microsite to host its exclusive video coverage of the Ashes series. The Digital Media Group also manages Five's catch-up TV service, Demand Five, which launched last July and which, according to the broadcaster, delivers around 2 million long-form video streams per month, including many of its most popular programs.