EastEnders is dropping its Friday episode and will now air across four consecutive weeknights in a major schedule shake-up.
The change will see the BBC soap air Monday-Thursday at 7.30pm with episodes now in direct competition with ITV’s Emmerdale.
For the first time, fans can tune into the antics of Albert Square on a Wednesday, with the permanent schedule change coming into play from March 7.
Big moves: EastEnders is dropping its Friday episode and will now air across four consecutive weeknights in a major schedule shake-up
And avid soap fans will be in for a treat as the first week will see the downfall of serial killer Gray Atkins.
Speaking of the changes, Kates Oates, Head of Continuing Drama at BBC Studios said: ‘We’re delighted that, from 7th March, there will be new regular time slots for EastEnders on BBC One, and Doctors on BBC Two.
‘Both shows have a loyal following; and this new simplified schedule means it’s even easier for viewers to get their fix, as well as being able to watch whenever and wherever they choose on iPlayer.
Head-to-head: The change will see the BBC soap air Monday-Thursday at 7.30pm with episodes now in direct competition with ITV’s Emmerdale
‘A 7pm time slot gives a whole new audience chance to enjoy the drama in Letherbridge; while EastEnders‘ new 7.30pm slot begins with a hugely exciting week, as killer Gray Atkins is finally exposed…’
The drastic new changes follow hot on the heels of rival soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale, who recently announced schedule alterations.
Broadcaster ITV confirmed both shows will change time slots – putting them in direct competition with EastEnders – as ITV expand their news programme for an hour between 6:30pm and 7:30pm.
Time for a change: For the first time, fans can tune into the antics of Albert Square on a Wednesday, with the permanent schedule change coming into play from March 7
The end is nigh: Avid soap fans will be in for a treat as the first week will see the downfall of serial killer Gray Atkins
A source told The Mirror that EastEnders schedule shake-up were a direct result of ITV’s changes, stating: ‘Bosses made the decision to change up the schedule when ITV made their announcement.
‘In the past, if there was ever a clash between the soaps it was the audience who lost out, but viewers consume TV differently these days.’
Bosses at BBC were said to no longer be worried about schedule clashes as fans can catch-up on BBC iPlayer, with the source continuing: ‘It’s no longer about the overnight ratings because they don’t reflect the true picture of who is tuning in. You only have to look at the numbers watching EastEnders on iPlayer, the figures are pretty incredible.’
It comes after Coronation Street will change to three hour-long episodes a week airing at 8pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while Emmerdale will now air at 7:30pm directly following the news.
Change: Coronation Street and Emmerdale are set to change their timeslots in March in one of ITV’s biggest schedule shakeups for years
The announcement left fans reeling, debating whether the BBC soap, which started in 1985, will be axed and comparing the soap to Channel 4’s Brookside, which was axed following a decline in viewership in 2003.
ITV’s Managing Director Kevin Lygo said in a statement: ‘As viewing habits rapidly change, live audiences to our national and international news programmes remain remarkably strong.
‘Our evening news programme reached an impressive 35.6 million viewers in 2021. We are very excited to be announcing this investment in what is an important public service strength of ITV – high-quality, impartial, trusted broadcast journalism – at a time when it could not be more important.
‘The nation’s two most popular continuing dramas, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, are fundamental to the success of ITV, and we know that, as with all dramas, viewers increasingly watch them whenever, and however they choose.
‘The new scheduling means that viewers can watch them live on TV in one go in a continuous soap fix, as well as on ITV Hub where they are regularly in the most watched shows every month.’
Switch up: The broadcaster has confirmed both shows will change time slots as ITV expand their news programme for an hour between 6:30pm and 7:30pm