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On radio, The Archers had begun an omnibus edition on Saturday 5th January 1952, almost exactly one year after that programme began, although this was not a new concept with that medium: programmes such as the thriller series The Daring Dexters had similar repeats as far back as 1946. On television, the BBC’s Compact was the first soap to have a regular, though short-lived, omnibus beginning on the newly-launched BBC2 channel on 25th April 1964 and ending on 5th September in the same year, but it would be 1982 before the concept was tried again with Brookside when it began in November 1982. This extra Saturday showing was an essential component in the programme’s success and when in 1985 the BBC began EastEnders, its scheduling-savvy controller Michael Grade insisted that a Sunday afternoon omnibus edition be introduced in the scheduling pattern. Throughout the year, the programme shot up the charts helped considerably by this extra edition. BARB allowed the numbers who watched the omnibus to be added to the overall viewing figures, making no allowance for people watching the episodes twice and publishing one overall figure to the press. This allowed EastEnders to replace Coronation Street at the top of the charts, aided and abetted by a London-based press who delighted to publish incorrect stories about the decline of the Northern soap.
Many individuals at Granada Television were annoyed about this state of affairs, being ignored by the press when they tried to point out that first showings of the Street almost always beat EastEnders. The ITV network controllers looked upon Coronation Street as a major weapon in grabbing viewers to the channel in the early evenings on Monday and Wednesday and didn’t want to dilute that effect by giving them the chance to see the episodes again at the weekend. The situation became even more embarrassing for ITV though in 1986 when the BBC began broadcasting the Australian import Neighbours at dinnertime and Michael Grade, noticing its popularity with his daughter and her friends, arranged for a late afternoon repeat. This meant that Neighbours was also near the top of the charts and ITV controller Steve Morrison at last decided that their major serial should also have a second showing.The first omnibus edition, comprising of Episode 2901 (16th January 1989) and Episode 2902 (18th January 1989), was shown on the afternoon of Sunday 22nd January 1989. Right from the start though there was a split in the ranks with nine of the ITV stations, including Granada, opting for a 5.35pm timeslot, four stations led by London Weekend Television opting for 2.00pm and Scottish Television going-it alone with a 4.00pm transmission. The introduction of the repeat showing was publicised by a special trailer which showed an apparently empty street caused by people supposedly being indoors to watch the omnibus, while Alf Roberts hung a sign on the Corner Shop door stating “Now open on Sundays” and, in the Rovers, Alec and Bet Gilroy spoke to camera to welcome their new weekend customers. The effect of the omnibus was instant with the programme immediately regaining first and second place in the charts and leapfrogging its BBC rival.
When the third weekly episode began in October 1989 no station chose to extend the omnibus to an hour and a half and instead arranged for a mid-day repeat during the week while retaining the omnibus at the weekends for the other two episodes. Although there was more harmony between the stations regarding when this extra transmission should be, Television South West chose to step outside the convention agreed by the other stations and had its timeslot on a different day of the week.
As early as September 1990 a large number of the ITV stations dropped the repeats altogether and by 1992 only Granada and Ulster Television were showing a weekend omnibus but no re-showing of the Monday episode and no other station repeating the programme at all. The situation was reversed again in September 1993 when all stations at last agreed to a country-wide showing of the three episodes, as individual repeats, at 12.55pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This situation lasted for less than three months before Granada and Ulster reverted to a weekend transmission of two of the episodes in omnibus format. As the mid and late 1990s wore on, stations dropped the repeats, either for periods of several months or altogether, while some others pushed them into the graveyard slot of a 5.00am transmission. When ITV2 started in 1998, viewers were given an alternative station to watch repeats of episodes and with far more opportunities than previously allowed with several showings a day.
An increase in the production of national daytime programmes such as Today with Des and Mel and Loose Women constrained the number of slots available to show Coronation Street in the afternoons and this, coupled with an increase in the number of episodes made, meant that not every edition was given a repeat slot. The station who did most to maintain a regular schedule of limited repeats was, unsurprisingly, Granada Television, and as they bought out other stations in the network in the late 1990s and early 2000s (in the main Yorkshire Television, Tyne Tees Television - the latter two having already merged in June 1992 - Border Television, Anglia Television and Meridian Broadcasting), a more centralised scheduling pattern was created and repeats continued in those areas to the Granada timings. Ulster Television also joined these transmissions for the most part with Scottish Television and Grampian Television establishing their own schedule with almost all of the episodes repeated. In the end, it was the latter station who was the last to carry regular repeat screenings of the programme, continuing for sixteen months after the Granada group had dropped their transmissions, after which ITV2 were the regular home of second showings of episodes.
Note: For periods of time in the 2000s and 2010s, one of the ITV2 omnibus’s has been shown on the main ITV channel at the weekend. Details of these can be found on the ITV2 repeat pages and are not included with the details below. Also, with the fractured transmissions of repeats from 1989 onwards, it is not possible to post the data onto one table. The details have therefore been split into the different ITV regions.