EastEnders will move over to BBC Two during Wimbledon.
The BBC confirmed on Thursday morning (16th June) that Wimbledon coverage will be on BBC One from 7pm to 8.30pm on weekdays. The One Show and EastEnders move to BBC Two.
This is an interesting strategic decision.
In recent years there have been a number of occasions when the evening schedule has been thrown into disarray during Wimbledon. Important matches – especially those involving British players – have been shown unexpectedly on BBC One with the regular programme moved to BBC Two at short notice.
It can be frustrating for tennis fans and people tuning in for other programmes.
Hopefully the new schedule will prove much more reliable. The News at Six and regional programmes stay on BBC One – English regions cannot opt on BBC Two.
But what does the practical decision tell us about the BBC’s ongoing priorities?
Wimbledon is one of its remaining sporting jewels. Even greater exposure on the main channel cannot do the corporation’s relationship with Wimbledon any harm.
It’s also true that exciting games may well get bigger ratings than The One Show or EastEnders.
Yes, EastEnders. We’ve written before about its ratings troubles. It was already slipping in popularity before the pandemic but has suffered over the past 2 years for so many reasons.
It was off air for several weeks after the first lockdown and it took a painfully long time for all 4 weekly episodes to get back to their full duration. This, together with the odd start times, undoubtedly hit the ratings.
Then, just as the show was ready to return to its full weekly output came ITV’s scheduling blitz. Emmerdale now beats EastEnders in the overnight ratings substantially.
Sending EastEnders off to BBC Two for a fortnight will not help matters.
Presumably the same thing may happen later in the summer during the Women’s Euros (which the BBC is commendably treating with parity of esteem to the Men’s Euros) and the Commonwealth Games.
Of course, the live schedule is not the be all and end all. The BBC may well release EastEnders early on iPlayer too.
But the warning bells must surely start going off over EastEnders’ long-term future if ratings don’t improve – or at the very least some will ask if four weekly episodes are still a good use of resources and airtime.
You cannot imagine ITV without Coronation Street and Emmerdale. For two weeks, it seems, you will be able to see BBC One without EastEnders.
PICTURED: EastEnders opening titles. COPYRIGHT: BBC.