It’s enough to have Norris choking on his cinnamon balls, Tracy plotting revenge with the aid of a blunt instrument, and Gail even more goggle-eyed than usual, as if she’s just been flashed at (possibly by Norris). Coronation Street hit an uncharacteristic ratings low of 6.3m in last night’s overnights.
I know what you’re thinking: Coronation Street was on last night?
Alas it was, the soap’s second Monday episode moved from 8:30pm to accommodate the first of the week’s 90-minute I’m a Celebrity extravaganzas. Consequently up against Holby City – which nabbed a healthy 4.3m – Corrie lost some 2.5m of its usual viewers.
Annoying for Coronation Street – even if Weatherfield’s own Antony Cotton remains in the jungle – this slump shows just how important scheduling is to soaps and how many viewers watch out of habit. For many, Tuesday just isn’t a Corrie evening. By contrast, last night’s EastEnders had the highest average audience across all channels – 8.6m and almost a 37 per cent share. While the loyal Corrie audience found it – 6.3m is still an impressive number – casual viewers didn’t. Hence the ratings low.
It’s a similar plight to Coronation Street’s Thursday episodes – one of which hit the previous ratings low of 6.7m in April 2010. Moved from Wednesdays in 2009 to accommodate ITV’s Champions League football, the soap has never really felt at home on a Thursday and those episodes consistently rate lower than Monday and Friday outings. Little wonder that earlier this year ITV Director of Television Peter Fincham announced that Corrie would move back to Wednesdays next autumn. And not before time.
When I interviewed Coronation Street’s series editor, Louise Sutton, about the move back to Wednesdays, she said, “There’s something about the Monday/Wednesday/Friday scheduling that the audience finds especially satisfying” – and she was right. That rhythm is comforting in its predictability. Change a soap’s scheduling and you need to let the audience know. EastEnders recently made a big deal of its Branning Week, which saw the Walford soap on every night, but even this was making a virtue of a necessity – the week’s extra episode was displaced from the previous Friday by Children in Need.
While Coronation Street can cope with the fleeting dip in ratings, it shows that soap scheduling is not to be messed with. It’s also another reason to pray for the end of I’m a Celebrity.