Cover of issue No. 91 of the Walford Gazette delivered to printer
By Larry Jaffee
Well, just as the last issue (No. 90) was delivered to the printer in late June, a rumour started circulating that the satellite TV service DISH Network was killing the monthly $9.95 subscription that offered on Sunday nights four back-to-back episodes a few weeks behind what is broadcast in the UK.
The rumour turned out to be true.
By early July DISH subscribers to the package were greeted by a screen that stated BBC Worldwide was working with DISH Network on a “new distribution model” for EastEnders. More than two months later, mum’s the word from both DISH and the BBC.
The Gazette is getting reports of DISH customers cancelling their service.
DISH Network’s withdrawal of the PPV package comes on the heels of the BBC pulling the plug on the global iPlayer, which was never launched in the US even though it was announced as coming in 2011.
We still have no idea why the iPlayer never launched in the US. Nor do we know why DISH and the BBC reexamined the PPV offering.
If it was a lack of subscribers, they certainly did nothing to promote its availability. When you called the toll-free number, the representatives had no idea what you were talking about, and EastEnders wasn’t even mentioned on the website.
Here’s a brief chronology of EastEnders’ uneasy history in the States:
• Late 1987/early 1988 – about 50 US public TV stations launch EastEnders, which debuted in the UK in February 1985. National PBS is comprised of 300-plus stations. EastEnders does not become the coveted Masterpiece Theatre must-run powerhouse that will happen nearly three decades later with Downton Abbey.
• Late 1992 – the Walford Gazette launches, and there are about 25 public TV stations left carrying EastEnders. Every year since, additional stations have dropped the show, typically citing the expense and disappointing viewer support.
• Late 2001, the BBC announced a video-on-demand offering for EastEnders; it never launched.
• September 2003 – BBC America kills EastEnders.
• June 2004 – DISH Network offers a monthly subscription for EastEnders with episodes that run roughly concurrent with BBC-1.
• September 2015 – about 10 public TV stations still air EastEnders, but it’s a constant battle, and the episodes are now at least a decade older than what BBC-1 shows because of the series first going three times and then four times a week. The public TV stations only broadcast two half-hour episodes a week.
Over the years, fans have privately raised money to keep EastEnders on public TV stations in New York; Washington, D.C.; and North Carolina, reversing cancellation decisions.
Stay tuned for the latest developments at ‘Walford State of Mind’ on Facebook. It’ll be interesting to see if that “new distribution model being finalized by DISH and BBC Worldwide” ever emerges, considering the historic indifference both parties have shown towards EastEnders. Let’s hope for the best!