A few days ago we speculated on EastEnders‘ long-term future amid falling ratings. Now the BBC has announced that episodes will premiere on iPlayer while the schedule is disrupted by Euro 2020 coverage.
As a short-term move this is sensible. The disruption to regular programmes during major sporting events can cause real frustration.
The inevitable disruption to scheduling could otherwise have harmed EastEnders more and this seems like a sensible way to protect the show. Arguably EastEnders‘ slip down the charts was accelerated when it temporarily moved to BBC Two during the 2012 Olympics.
But what if the move to debut online becomes permanent? This is a fascinating question.
There’s no doubt that “binging” online can be hugely popular. A number of major dramas have premiered online before they have appeared in the linear schedule.
Channel 4, for example, premiered It’s a Sin on its main channel and the other episodes went online immediately afterwards.
Inevitably this meant the TV audiences for later episodes were lower but the programme still reached big numbers and made an impact.
But a soap is a more complex matter. Its scheduling supports the rest of the channel. It isn’t simply about the impact of the programme with audiences, important as that is.
If premiering EastEnders on the iPlayer boosts the overall number of people it reaches then that might help restore the programme’s popularity and give it a new lease of life. Future – guaranteed.
But what if it simply cuts up the cake differently? Cutting the BBC One numbers while the totals remain similar?
Here’s a thought. EastEnders online with a BBC One repeat in a relatively quiet part of the schedule to maintain its visibility, not unlike CBBC on BBC Two on Saturdays. Again not perhaps far-fetched in the long-term.
To stress again, there is no indication that the move online is anything other than a means of compensating for the Euro 2020 linear schedule disruption.
No doubt BBC strategists will be watching though.
Again a fascinating strategic question.
PICTURED: BBC One programme promotion: EastEnders. COPYRIGHT: BBC.