The BBC’s dilemma over how to respond to ITV’s impending schedule shake-up goes to the heart of what BBC One is about.
EastEnders faces a massive threat from the rescheduling of Emmerdale and Coronation Street. Even in an age of catch up, live ratings matter for the soaps.
But just how strategically important to the BBC is EastEnders now? And how competitive does the corporation want to look?
Whichever of the main options are chosen will reveal a lot.
This could be intriguing.
On the one hand, The One Show could well pick up more viewers without direct competition from Emmerdale. It would be no bad thing if the show – which has clear public service values – sees its audience rise.
It would also keep faith with core BBC viewers and show the corporation isn’t interested in knee jerk reactions.
On the other hand, can EastEnders afford to lose more viewers?
Move EastEnders to 7pm
The obvious competitive move – show EastEnders against the news and avoid a clash with ITV’s two soaps.
It could actually help EE to be in a consistent slot 4 days a week. But would The One Show work at 7.30pm?
At its best, it provides a bridge between the news hour and more substantial or heavier material in the schedule. Could its qualities – friendliness, informality and a range of items you can dip in and out off – be a turn-off in a later slot?
Change the format
Not something to do lightly. Hour-long episodes are not about bolting two together like an omnibus. Perhaps this could be considered longer-term though?
Whatever the BBC decides to do, will have repercussions.
Remember too the corporation is now launching a line of attack to defend both its traditional role and public funding against its ideologically driven critics.
It needs to preserve its role providing a full range of programmes, with something for everyone.
But it will not want to look like it is simply competing with ITV either.
Not an easy circle to square.
PICTURED: part of the EastEnders set. COPYRIGHT: BBC.