A little trivia question. What did the BBC News at Six, the BBC Regional News, the documentary Ambulance and the BBC News at Ten have in common yesterday?
Stuck? Well they all got more viewers than the programme the tabloids and the cheap TV magazines still regard as the BBC’s top show – namely, EastEnders.
For a bonus point what’s the link with last night’s peak time episode of Rip Off Britain?
Yes, Julia, Gloria and Angela were able to draw level with the denizens of Albert Square with 2.6m viewers apiece.
Naturally Emmerdale completely blew the show out of the water.
Now, of course and quite rightly, it should be stressed that EastEnders is dropping early on iPlayer and attracting a significant number of hits. It is increasingly unfair to judge a programme by overnight ratings alone.
And for a non-commercial broadcaster, the ratings should not be a sole consideration.
But what is interesting is the BBC’s apparent lack of concern over the low overnight ratings for what was once such a popular – and strategically important – programme.
Tabloid tales of the “EastEnders ratings crisis” can be dismissed. With the summer coming towards its end there are unlikely to be any more record lows for the time being.
But sooner or later the showbiz hacks will have questions to ask:
- When will EastEnders return to four regular half-hour episodes a week again?
- If not why not?
The BBC has a slick marketing and comms team. Can it do more to drum up positive interest in the programme again?
Then there’s the question of on-air promotion – or rather the lack of it at present.
The BBC is known to be developing “soap-style dramas” to replace Holby City which ends next year.
It really is time for the BBC to get its finger out if it wants EastEnders to continue to be a success for the next 26 years.
If they aren’t careful, the tabloids will start to describe the show as a “flop” and will be unable to refer to it without adding the words “ratings crisis”. This risks corporate harm.
As we’ve said before, those who would like the BBC cut down in scale would love nothing more than BBC One without a high-rating soap.
What is going on here?