Monday, October 07, 2013

Young people aren't bored enough for EastEnders any more

Interesting item on Radio Four's always excellent Media Show last week (you can listen here) about the declining popularity of British soaps.

In the last twenty years Coronation Street has gone from averaging over 20 million viewers to around 11 million. EastEnders has lost two million viewers since 2006 and sometimes comes second to Emmerdale in the ratings.

People inside the world of soaps think this might have something to do with too many episodes and not enough focus on strong stories.

People outside the world of soaps - like me, for instance - wonder if this might mean that in the multi-channel universe new generations of viewers never have the leisure to develop the soap habit. That's not to say they're frantically busy. They're probably not. But any idle time they have is hoovered up by YouTube clips, endless X-Factor spin-offs or faction formats like the Kardashians. In this climate it's hard for a soap to get started on people. Nobody was ever magnetised by a soap. Soap works on people who are bored. Young people aren't bored any more. They're fidgety and distracted but never actually bored enough to devote the time it would take to work out what was going on in EastEnders.


  1. It's not just Soaps. In our house our TV viewing has dipped alarmingly as we have discovered social media. The TV set doesn't remain on all the time as it probably did 20 years ago, now it gets turned off if no one is watching We all would rather be on our computers for the majority of the time only occasionally meeting up for the shared experience sat on the sofa. It's a sign of the times.

  2. My ex used to watch all the soaps. All of them. Corrie, Brookside, Eastenders, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks. Others I've probably forgotten. This was when they were weekly or possibly twice a week.

    Then they all went daily, or nearly daily, and it became too much even for her. So she dropped them, one at a time, until eventually we watched none. It just takes too much commitment.

  3. I wonder if 'boxset' viewing also has had an impact. With their long term plots they're only doing what soaps have been doing for decades. And those have the advantage of being viewable in one 'hit' start to finish. And that's the important thing, they finish. And more often than not they maintain a level of quality all the way through, not peak and trough over years.

  4. I don't think that's the reason. I think pure and simply there are too many episodes. Gone is the appointment to view. You can just dip and out when you like as there's no point taping them as you'd never get round to watching them.

    As an editor of a magazine that relies heavily on soaps to sell - and believe me they still do sell like no other programmes can - people are far from falling out of love with soaps. They just don't have the time to watch all of them.

    Less episodes and smaller casts would make them more appealing again.

  5. I stopped watching soaps in the nineties. As soon as you spot the plots repeating (sometimes with the same character!) it loses its point somewhat. I prefer drama where the story ends before it gets boring.

  6. Anonymous11:31 am

    Was going to suggest they could release soaps as a boxset. Corrie on a thousand DVDs. (Someone, somewhere might be bored enough to work out how many discs it would take.)

  7. The soaps seem to have changed: no longer the cosy, jokey, easy-going shows with loveable characters, now it's all hard men and women, misery and shouting. Who wants to watch that?