String of soaps’ best known names face the axe as EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale slash wage bills

SOME of Britain’s favourite soap stars face the axe in a huge cost-cutting drive as audiences dwindle.

Insiders said the £200,000-a-year-plus pay packets of leading performers on Coronation Street, Emmerdale and EastEnders meant they were all in the firing line.

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Coronation Street’s biggest stars face the axe as the ITV soap’s audience dwindlesCredit: PAEmmerdale needs to cut wage bills by up to 25 per cent, an insider revealed

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Emmerdale needs to cut wage bills by up to 25 per cent, an insider revealedCredit: GettyEast­Enders bosses were even considering a 'massacre' of their stars with an epic end-of-year finale

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East­Enders bosses were even considering a ‘massacre’ of their stars with an epic end-of-year finaleCredit: PA

One source told us how East­Enders bosses were even considering a “massacre” of their stars with an epic end-of-year finale.

The pressure to make cuts comes as ratings across the big three fall and wage bills spiral.

An insider said: “There is about to be a bloodbath across Corrie, Emmerdale and EastEnders — and it won’t be pretty.

“All the big three have all been told they need to cut their wage bills by up to 25 per cent. Now there is panic in the green rooms about who could be facing the chop.

“Some of the veterans are terrified they could be next — especially the older generation who are all earning well over £200,000.

“The corridors are full of fear. It could be anyone who gets a script that tells them their time is up.

“Working in soaps has never been more perilous than it is now.”

ITV’s Corrie has been broadcast for 63 years and Emmerdale for 51.

BBC’s EastEnders has been on air for 38 years.

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But a report from broadcasting regulator Ofcom this month revealed all three were experiencing record ­ratings lows.

They were watched by tens of millions more than a decade ago, but now struggle to pull in more than three million per episode.

The source explained: “Fewer people watching the ITV soaps means less money from advertising. And for EastEnders, their dismal viewing figures make a mockery of their enormously expensive new set — paid for by the licence fee.”

The BBC forked out £87million on the set three years ago.

The source added: “The issue all three are facing is how they can claw fans back.

“Your average soap fan is likely to be older, and younger people are turning off from traditional TV and are using streaming sites.

“The soaps are also having to compete against one another more than ever. ITV moved Corrie and Emmerdale to create a 90-minute news broadcast every night — meaning the BBC had to choose which one they compete against.

“They chose the same slot as Emmerdale but now put episodes on iPlayer at 6am so fans can ­easily watch it to stop the clash. It has become dog-eat-dog.”

It has been reported that Corrie veteran Bill Roache, 91 — the soap’s longest serving star of 63 years as Ken Barlow — earns £250,000 a year, alongside Jack P Shepherd, who has played David Platt since 2000.

At EastEnders, 64-year-old stalwart Steve McFadden, who plays Phil Mitchell, is in the top BBC pay bracket and takes home more than £200,000.

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Natalie Cassidy and Letitia Dean, who play Sonia Fowler and Sharon Watts, both make £150,000 apiece.

This month BBC bosses also brought back Ian Beale, played by Adam Woodyatt, who earns more than £200,000 for the role.

Emmerdale’s Kim Tate — actress Claire, 61 — is also believed to be taking home more than £200,000 a year. Chris Chittell, who plays the soap’s longest serving character Eric Pollard, is also on £200,000.

A source said: “Some of the actors have been on set for decades and they have become icons who are known more for their characters than themselves.

“Many of them are worrying about where they would go and what they would do if the rugs were pulled from under their feet.”

The BBC forked out £87million on the new EastEnders set three years ago

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The BBC forked out £87million on the new EastEnders set three years agoCredit: BBCEmmerdale has already started shedding stars

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Emmerdale has already started shedding starsCredit: Rex

Emmerdale has already started shedding stars.

Last week Matthew Wolfenden became the sixth actor to quit the soap in the last 12 months.

And this week Jane Hudson announced her departure after five years as executive producer.

The insider added: “Many are seeing these exits as people jumping before they were pushed.

“Matthew, for example, was ready to move to pastures new and he did the soap a favour, as he was on a six-figure salary. There is talk at EastEnders of what is going to be a massacre of stars come Christmas.

“They always go all-out at Christmas and Corrie and EastEnders could use this as a clever way to help the cost-cutting drive.

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“Normally it’s just a case of the bigger the drama, the bigger the ratings. But this time it’s also the bigger the death count the better for the budget.”

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Source: HIS Education

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