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EastEnders, Corrie and Emmerdale are going On Demand for the Euros – but is this the future of soaps?

The Big Three are offering an alternative way of watching episodes - and it has some fans worried.

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Published: Wednesday, 2nd June 2021 at 3:27 pm

Like the changing of the seasons or rain on your day off, you've always been able to rely on the soaps airing (pretty much) every night since Coronation Street debuted on ITV in 1960.

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There has only really been one threat to the continuing dramas' consistency, and that's the COVID pandemic, which forced EastEnders and Hollyoaks off air for a short period, while Emmerdale and Coronation Street decreased their weekly output by 50 per cent.

Soaps are undoubtedly known for their resilience but also for their ingenuity. Quite often they will debut revolutionary production methods (like, for example, Coronation Street's first ever COVID-safe stunt, or EastEnders' clever way around filming a kiss during the pandemic), and in light of the Euro 2020 tournament, the big three are again offering something different.

EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale have all confirmed they will put a week's worth of episodes on their channels' respective on demand services on a Monday while the football is on.

The soaps will air on linear TV, too, but their schedules haven't yet been confirmed at the time of writing.

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On first glance, the move seems absolutely fine. I personally can't wait to delve into the delayed Euros so the soaps' move means I can watch all episodes in one go and not miss a single free kick.

But following the announcement from EastEnders, who jumped first, some fans on Twitter seem rather concerned about the whole thing. "Clearly a move designed in anticipation of a more permanent move," one fan wrote. Another added: "Stop trying to be Hollyoaks and Netflix."

Now, there's nothing within the announcements from either the BBC or ITV suggesting this would be a permanent move; in fact they've both confirmed this is just a temporary fix while the Euros are on. And it's worth reinforcing the soaps will air on linear TV.

But take a look at the current TV climate. It goes without saying that streaming and having control of your own viewing schedule is becoming increasingly more popular. During the COVID pandemic, we turned to on demand shows to fill our time (Netflix alone added 36 million subscribers to its books in 2020), and with the likes of Disney Plus launching last year too, the option to pick and choose what you watch and when you watch has never seemed more appealing.

In Soapland, Hollyoaks has enjoyed some success tinkering with its release schedule in the past, too. At Christmas, the Channel 4 soap popped their festive episodes online for everyone to watch in one go. Scheduling conflicts could be avoided, with viewers able to visit the 'Oaks whenever they liked, allowing time to devour all those Christmas TV specials (and plenty of pud!).

It wouldn't necessarily be a surprise if the BBC and ITV took a chance on streaming soaps. The former, for instance, has a very successful iPlayer service, which not only allows a chance to catch-up, but boasts on-demand originals like RuPaul's Drag Race UK. On demand wouldn't necessarily sound the death knell for a soap.

In fact, look at the longest-running soap ever – The Archers. The BBC Radio 4 soap turned 71 just last week and airs both on linear radio and has a successful podcast catch-up service (rated four stars!). If even Ambridge is online, then surely the TV soaps can be too?

This news of course preceded the huge announcement that Holby City would end after 23 years on the BBC in 2022, much to the dismay of soap fans. Does this open the door for more dramatic changes to the soap landscape? That remains to be seen – but it certainly begs the question: what do long-running dramas need to do to stay on TV?

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If dabbling with online outputs here and there, flipping their schedules around, testing longer and shorter episodes all help to prolong the lives of the soaps we know and love, wouldn't we rather broadcasters did that?

Visit our dedicated Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale pages for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers. If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV guide.
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