For the first time in its 37-year history, EastEnders will be aired on four consecutive weeknights, pitting it against ITV rival Emmerdale.
The BBC’s flagship soap will have its own permanent slot at 7.30pm for every episode from Monday to Thursday, in a major scheduling shift.
EastEnders will now air on Wednesday nights for the first time, with the current Friday episode being canceled.
Further, soap fans will be able to watch Doctors in primetime, as the daytime stalwart will now be repeated Monday through Thursday at 7 pm on BBC2.
ITV’s announcement that Coronation Street will switch to an hour-long format three times a week, while Emmerdale will be “stripped” across the week at 7.30 pm sparked the changes, which will take effect next month.
Because viewers can catch up on iPlayer or watch the BBC3 omnibus on weekends, BBC bosses say they are no longer concerned about soap clashes.
Similarly, viewers can watch Emmerdale and Coronation Street on demand via ITVHub or on the +1 channels at a later time.
“When ITV made their announcement, bosses made the decision to change up the schedule,” a BBC source explained.
If there was ever a clash between the soaps in the past, the audience was the loser, but viewers now consume television differently.
It’s no longer about overnight ratings, because they don’t accurately reflect who is watching. You only have to look at the numbers of people watching EastEnders on iPlayer to see how incredible the figures are.”
EastEnders is still one of the most popular shows on BBC iPlayer, with over 285 million streams in 2021.
“We’re delighted that, from 7th March, there will be new regular time slots for EastEnders on BBC1 and Doctors on BBC2,” BBC Studios’ continuing drama chief Kate Oates told the Mirror.
Both shows have devoted audiences, and the new simplified schedule makes it even easier for fans to get their fix, with the added benefit of being able to watch whenever and wherever they want on iPlayer.
“A 7pm time slot introduces a whole new audience to the drama in Leatherbridge, while EastEnders’ new 7.30pm slot kicks off with a hugely exciting week, as serial killer Gray Atkins is finally exposed.”
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