WORRIED Coronation Street stars are bracing themselves for another “ridiculous” advertising tie-in over plans to rename the Weatherfield restaurant.
Nick’s Bistro is set to be renamed as former owner Nick Tilsley isn’t in the soap any more and executives are casting around for a new moniker but concerned cast members fear the restaurant could fall prey to advertising cash that has seen a Co-op and Costa coffee introduced to the Street.
A showbiz agent revealed: “People are wondering whether it could be a Nando’s or a Pizza Express given that ITV are happy to take cash from the Co-op and Costa to plug their products.
“People are asking where this commercialism of Corrie will end? Perhaps the Rovers should be taken over by Wetherspoon’s!”
A slew of mid-salary stars is furious that ITV bosses have agreed to the money-spinning deal to have the high street giants’ shopfronts and products on-screen on the expanded new set.
But at the same time, cast members are banned from taking ad work promoting products away from the soap that could massively boost their earnings.
The rule has already seen stars like Michelle Keegan and Ryan Thomas quit the soap to increase their earning potential.
Catherine Tyldesley and Shayne Ward have also recently revealed they are off, too. The deals are set to spark in revolt on-set.
The agent who deals with Street stars added: “There is real anger over this commercial tie-in. ITV is happy to take millions from commercial firms for product placement and allow the cast to stand around with Costa cups and lug carrier bags around but won’t allow the cast to promote products away from the set.
“That is just double standards. Aside from that the product placement is ridiculous. This no joke. Once you have one or two brands in then it is opening the door for more.
"This will be a like a slow drip and in a few years' time there will be lots more. Mark my words."
ITV rules state that the stars are only allowed to take part in other shows like I’m A Celebrity and Dancing on Ice and do personal appearances like shop openings.
But the agent revealed that many of the stars have been forced to turn down lucrative approaches from cosmetic firms and fashion brands.
They added: “More will go over this. That is for sure. Why should they be made to plug products for ITV as a character but they are not allowed to do it for themselves in their own names?”
And the showbiz fixer pointed out that ITV presenters like Ant and Dec and Holly Willoughby rake in a fortune promoting everything from cars to diet drinks and cosmetics.
Stars are looking at the example of Michelle, who left in 2014 because she felt Corrie was stifling her earning potential, and is now a millionaire.
Corrie also has a three-tier system that means new actors are paid a fraction of Street veterans.
And it is the established middle-ranking stars – like Ryan and Michelle were before they quit – who feel under paid.
The huge wage difference means that big guns like Bill Roache and Michael Le Vell pick of cheques of up to £250,000, while those in the middle tier are on around £100,000-a-year
And new arrivals in Weatherfield are now signing contracts meaning they are earning £50,000—a-year – that’s on a par with cast members at Channel 4 show Hollyoaks, that has a fraction of the viewers of Corrie.
An ITV spokeswoman said: "We’ve been including product placement in both Coronation Street and Emmerdale for a number of years and have always worked closely with the production team to ensure that any product placement is editorially justified and a natural fit within the action.
"Product placement, along with sponsorship and advertising, all goes to pay for great ITV programmes such as Coronation Street."