If you’re in the UK, it’s so easy to watch Emmerdale but what about those viewers overseas who can’t just pick up the remote to watch. From New Zealand to Saudi Arabia, The Emmerdaily contributor @IShipVanity looks at how Emmerdale’s Global footprint has grown… 

Emmerdale’s Global Footprint

Rolling Dales, thatched roofs, quaint cottages, the quintessential British pub and quiet rural family life. It’s the very picture postcard view that many people around the global visualise the United Kingdom. Stereotypical in outlook, add a hefty dose of larger than life characters, constant drama, and moments of humour, Emmerdale must seem for some the perfect British serial drama to get invested in. British viewers have grown fond of the ITV soap over the past 46 years, but the broader audience is far more global than meets the eye. Sections of the viewership stretch from all across the other side of the world in New Zealand across the pond to sun-kissed shores of sunny California. 

What may surprise you is some viewers are not ex-patriates looking for a slice of home but foreign nationals hooked on the weekly drama in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s not an easy pursuit – far from it to follow the series. It’s a constant struggle in finding clips and even affording subscription services to watch the series.

ITV Studios Global Entertainment, which is responsible for selling the rights to Emmerdale to global broadcast partners, pro-actively renews its contract with a whole host of international channels.

USA and Canada watch Emmerdale on BritBox
USA and Canada watch Emmerdale on BritBox

In North America, the BBC and ITV joint broadcast platform Britbox offers full episodes behind a pay-wall. With audiences in Canada and the United States besotted by British drama, Emmerdale’s inclusion on the service really does offer slice of serial drama to that audience.

Soumya Srirama, President of BritBox North America, has expressed audiences in that market have a deep-rooted love of UK drama and even British culture, stating: “We know that Canadians have a deep affinity for British culture and the extraordinary television programs produced in the UK, so launching BritBox in Canada has always been at the top of our list.” 

Britbox is expensive at point of access, with an annual subscription costing just under $70 US Dollars for Canadian’s $89.99. Whilst monthly plans are available, some Emmerdale fans are put at a financial disadvantage in accessing the service.

“I am unable to watch full episodes but that is because I’m not in a monetary position to buy a streaming service like Britbox,” Hanna McKinney one of the global army of fans alluded to. She has a very valid point as it’s vastly problematic following the series outside of the UK. Where UK viewers can take it for granted they can watch it on ITV hub or on demand for free. Some viewers are put at an immediate financial disadvantage looking for other options or watching limited YouTube clips, all for the lack of free-to-air broadcast.

Added to the issues is one of time-delay of the episodes themselves, with some countries over a year behind whilst others are more up-to-date. UKTV, as part of BBC Australia’s service, is over a year behind as are MTV3, Emmerdale’s broadcast parter in Finland. Swedish broadcaster TV4 which transmits the series under the name “Hem Till Gården” is six months behind while New Zealand state broadcaster TVNZ is around five months behind.

It takes considerable time for viewers abroad to get the full context that those YouTube clips don’t always provide, relying on twitter for real-time discussion clips and gifs to help mitigate the time delays.

liris Lehto, a fan from Finland, said: “Here in Finland we are able to watch Emmerdale on TV but it is behind. Twitter adds a new level to the live watching experience.” Another viewer Lori B from Canada has those same challenges whilst watching the series, saying: “The main challenge I had was only being able to watch clips, not the full show.”

Some countries don’t even have streaming services that broadcast Emmerdale at all, as Portuguese viewer Vanessa points out: “The most challenging thing is to not have access to ITV or any British platforms, no channel in Portugal airs soaps.”

It’s incredible the dedication viewers outside of the UK have trying to follow the drama, especially with  very limited access and at times none at all. There are no easy fixes around this problem with International rights restrictions, contract clauses and royalty issues to get around. Many fans will sadly always be put in the position of either watching it illegally or having to subscribe to expensive streaming services.

United Emirates uses ITV Choice to watch Emmerdale
United Emirates uses ITV Choice to watch Emmerdale

As part of broadening the ITV footprint across the world, ITV choice is a tv channel broadcast across the MENA (Middle East And North Africa) market through which Emmerdale is broadcast on ONS (Orbit Showtime Network) based in the United Arab Emirates.

The broadcaster transmits the channel across the region from Morocco to Iraq. ITV is aggressively increasing its visibility into Asia with a new deal struck late last year that will see the channel be broadcast in Myanmar. Whilst viewers have to pay for the privilege of watch ITV choice in the region, Emmerdale’s global viewership looks set to increase. 

How do many people across the world actually discover the series in the first place? The reasons are varied and some are frankly wonderful. For example, Canadian viewer J.Lynn Stapleton started watching the series on holiday in 2013 and just kept watching. 

Whilst some started watching the series as they identified with one of the series many ships (series relationship), CJR from California and Robron stalwart said: “I started watching the show because of a ship but the incredible storylines and great acting isn’t normally what we associate American soaps with. British soaps are so much more.” Days of our lives take note! Johanna from Germany who found the series because of Vanity but was drawn to the broader Emmerdale world, said: “Came for Vanity, still with Emmerdale because it’s an authentic, take on challenging stories, beautiful characters.” Another @Lucky_j12 from Cincinnati, Ohio, said: “Love getting my Emmerdale fix, so many talented and under appreciated actors and actresses.”

Emmerdale is also finding viewers from other social media platforms such as Tumblr. Even a simple gif can draw interest in the series. “Tumblr gifs made me aware of the Vanity ship so I checked it out and got hooked on the show immediately. So I basically came for Vanity and stayed for everything else too,” Jane M from Antwerp in Belgium enthuses.

Alyssa from the United States also adds: “I discovered it through Tumblr posts and Vanity sparked my interest.” A theme does emerge whereby the series captivates and interests through a particular ship, particularly through Robron, Coira, and Vanity, the power-couples of the series. Having conversations with people, it becomes clear that viewers may start their interest with a particular character or ship but invest their time on other characters, in the series, and identify with their struggles. 

The power of serial dramas is the unique ability to tap into the vast sway of humanity and all its problems. Those issues including affairs of the heart, money and everything in-between showcase the very rich tapestry of life. It’s those problems that bring us all together no matter where you are from in the world, those things that truly connect us all. Emmerdale is a microcosm of those dramas of life, which transcend borders and language, so isn’t it a wonder why the ‘small village with big drama’ has viewers across the world. For when you boil it down, the characters and drama are universal…

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