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BBC drama boss says COVID protocols had impact on ‘EastEnders’ ratings

Next week on EastEnders (BBC)
'EastEnders' ratings have apparently slipped. (BBC)

EastEnders’ ratings have been affected by the soap’s airing schedule and shorter episodes, the BBC’s drama boss has said.

The BBC One soap’s ratings are reported to be declining, with one October episode apparently drawing in less viewers than Only Connect over on BBC Two.

The broadcaster’s drama head Piers Wenger has now suggested that the airing pattern – which sees the programme starting at times like 8.05pm - is partly to blame.

He also addressed the length of the episodes, which have been shorter since the soap returned after being halted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Louisa Lytton opens up about catching COVID after giving birth

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"It being scheduled off-junction and it not being the full half hour has impacted its audience," Digital Spy quoted Wenger as saying.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 12/10/2021 - Programme Name: EastEnders - October-December 2021 - TX: 18/10/2021 - Episode: EastEnders - October-December 2021 - 6361 (No. 6361) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL TUESDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2021*** Janine Butcher (CHARLIE BROOKS) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes
Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks) in the soap. (Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes) (BBC/Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes)

“But we are very focused on getting the show back into its usual slot, and its usual duration, and making sure it's delivering.”

Wenger said he thought the Albert Square soap had been “particularly badly hit on linear” but that it was still a big show for iPlayer.

He also suggested that lengthening the episodes was being looked at.

EastEnders boss says the original set is falling apart. (PA Images)
The Queen Vic in 'EastEnders'. (PA Images)

"There are very obvious reasons why we've had to make shorter episodes,” Wenger said.

Read more: Amanda Holden in Neighbours plus 7 of the best celebrity soap cameos

EastEnders has always been a BBC half hour, whereas Corrie and Emmerdale are commercial half hours and, therefore, shorter so they've been impacted slightly less by shooting with COVID protocols, but we are working to get back to (it)."

Watch: Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale to air first crossover episode