'EastEnders' to take on ITV soaps four times a week

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The Independent Online

The BBC is planning to broadcast a fourth weekly episode of EastEnders to give viewers the chance to watch the soap opera on Friday nights. The new schedule will begin on 10 August to mark the start of the trial of Dan Sullivan, the character accused of shooting Phil Mitchell.

A leaked memo from the entertainment department at the BBC suggests it intends to make every effort to promote the fourth episode with a series of on-air promotions and magazine and press advertisements.

ITV's soap operas Emmerdale and Coronation Street already perform well on Friday nights, Emmerdale drawing around 9 million viewers and Coronation Street more than 11 million.

But the popularity of a Friday night visit to Albert Square is already in some doubt as many viewers are thought to prefer a Wednesday night episode. Nearly half of fans surveyed said they would rather tune in on a Wednesday, with Friday the second most popular option, according to a recent poll in Inside Soap magazine.

The show is currently broadcast on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, with an omnibus edition on Sunday afternoon. A spokeswoman for the show said: "We are not stating when the episode comes in. We are not confirming what day of the week it will be. When we have something to say we will let people know."

But an extra weekly episode of EastEnders is known to be a priority for Lorraine Heggessey, BBC1's new controller. "People have told us they'd like to see more of Albert Square, and we've responded to that," she said.

The news quashes speculation that the fourth episode of the show would be on Saturday nights to compete with ITV's new football highlights show.

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