This works: Emmerdale Live

How Emmerdale's producers used the 40th anniversary to attempt a world first in social media and broadcast innovation – a live episode produced entirely on location, running alongside a behind the scenes webcast.

Two weddings, two births and a murder. For viewers of top ITV soap Emmerdale, it’s just another average day. For the show’s producers, the 40th anniversary offered all the usual high drama as well as a perfect opportunity to attempt a world first in social media and broadcast innovation – a live episode produced entirely on location, running alongside a behind the scenes webcast.

"We gave them a great opportunity across all the platforms to engage with the show and make sure they came with us across the whole evening."  – Danny Whitfield

Both experiences gave loyal Emmerdale fans a totally unique angle on the drama, with video from behind the scenes broadcast live across the internet. The behind the scenes segments were shot using 11 strategically positioned minicams, so online viewers could see the crew working and the actors being cued as the live drama went out on ITV1. They were then drawn into sister show Emmerdale: The Fallout broadcast on ITV2. As Danny Whitfield, head of digital at ITV, explains, “It was a really good chance to try to do something totally different, giving fans what they want, in the places and on the devices that they use every day. We gave them a great opportunity across all the platforms to engage with the show and make sure they came with us across the whole evening.”

On the night it went out, the ITV2 show hit its highest ratings ever, drawing in 120,000 online viewers. The 40th anniversary show was a resounding success for cast, crew and audience and a testing time for all involved, as creative director John Whiston confirms. “We’re in a field, in Yorkshire, in October, at night, so everything had to work first time, one time only, that time. But if you want to get the best out of your people and your crew, put them through live and then you’ll have the most bonded team ever.”