Some cracking storylines have turned ITV's strongest soap into must-see TV for Natasha Taylor.

Coronation Street was first broadcast on 9 December 1960 and was fully networked by May 1961, pulling in 7.1 million viewers. However, the most mesmerising storylines only peaked at Ken Barlow's numerous affairs, Bet Lynch's ever-growing leopard-skin wardrobe and Stan Ogden's gangrene death. This probably explains why I've never been a fan.

So how come I now find myself settling down on Sunday night for my double helping of this national treasure? Maybe it's the sadist in me, I found myself more and more gripped as soon as horror Hillman, the serial killer, came to darken my screen and clearly I am not alone. In 2002, Corrie pulled in an average audience of 11.9 million, which increased to 13.9 million this year, since the introduction of its slow-burning storylines.

In February 2003, we saw Richard Hillman confess to killing Maxine and it pulled in one of its biggest ratings so far, 19.4 million viewers.

But just as I'd decided to stop tuning in, they started to seduce me with Peter Barlow and his bigamist ways and Roy being drugged and bedded by Tracey.

As viewers we have great power knowing the full plot. But what we're really waiting to see is the catastrophic explosion that hits the street once everyone else finds out.

Let's face it, soaps are full of unrealistic violence, abuse and everyday despair in one street, one square or on one farm and all are competing for that ratings-topping storyline to whet our rubber-necking appetites.

But how far can the storylines go before they cause upset, controversy and offence to the existing Corrie audience? Do they want to see their friends murdered, raped and cheated on? It seems not. Watchdogs warned ITV that the Coronation Street scene in which Hillman killed Maxine attracted many complaints. So contentious storylines may be upping the ratings, but will they have to stop producing intense and protracted scenes of violence before the 9pm watershed? And if so, what does this mean for advertisers?

Corrie has always been a hit with women (7.7 million) and particularly housewives, but it also pulls in 4.7 million men an episode, so not surprisingly advertisers such as Boots, Volkswagen, Dairylea and BT Together can be seen in the breaks. With ratings of 13 million-plus it's unquestionable a great awareness opportunity for any brand.

This year, Corrie walked off with Best Soap, Best Storyline, Best Actor and Best Spectacular Scene of the Year at the British Soap Awards. It's definitely ITV's strongest property and the network is running double episodes to maintain viewers and lock them in. Sunday night is living proof with 9.6 million viewers on ITV between 7.30 and 10pm compared with BBC1's 4.6 million. So it's not surprising that it has introduced more double episodes to the autumn schedule. Well, wouldn't you?

- Natasha Taylor, the new-business manager at PHD, is confident that her soon-to-be-husband Ben Christie is not a bigamist.

Broadcaster: ITV

Frequency: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 7.30pm

Audience: (Sunday, 20 July) 12.2 million

Advertisers include: Boots, Rennie, BT, Volkswagen