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Tuesday, July 14, 1998 Published at 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK


Soaps battle to be World Cup winners

ITV's Coronation Street won the soap ratings war on Sunday

ITV's top soap Coronation Street pulled in twice as many viewers as its BBC rival EastEnders on Sunday before the World Cup Final - but the BBC was streets ahead in attracting viewers to its coverage of the Brazil-France match.

The two soaps went head-to-head in a ratings war with World Cup specials broadcast prior to the tournament's final game.

[ image: EastEnders is set to revamp its cast]
EastEnders is set to revamp its cast
Coronation Street attracted a peak of 12.9 million viewers for its 50-minute programme, compared with 5.3 million for the 15-minute EastEnders, according to preliminary figures from the British Audience Research Bureau.

But the BBC's coverage of he World Cup final attracted twice as many viewers as ITV. Fronted by Des Lynam, the BBC was watched by an average of 15.7m people, whereas Brian Moore's last game as commentator on ITV pulled in 6.5m.

Football fever on the street

Coronation Street saw the show's characters preparing to watch the match on the big screen at the Rovers Return. Some scenes were filmed only hours earlier so references to the World Cup Final could be as topical as possible.

The EastEnders programme was the final of three 15-minute specials following a trip by Albert Square regulars to Paris.

A BBC spokeswoman played down the significance of the BARB figures. "It's completely unrealistic to compare the unconfirmed viewing figures of EastEnders' short episode with a 50-minute special for Coronation Street," she said.

All change at Albert Square

New characters are set to join the cast of EastEnders in the Autumn, as part of an overhaul by the show's new executive producer Matthew Robinson. He hopes the changes will attract more viewers and "spice up Walford".

Sixteen year-old Jack Ryder is to play Jamie, a distant cousin of the Mitchell brothers who comes to live in Albert Square.

Jack said he was thrilled by his new role: "I'm totally amazed I'm going to be a Mitchell. It's great I'm going to be a part of the best soap family."

Also joining the cast is Tamzin Outhwaite , 27, who will play a character called Melanie. Ms Outhwaite has appeared in Men Behaving Badly and The Bill as well as appearing on stage in Grease and Oliver in London's West End.

Completing the trio of new characters will be Jimi Mistry 25, who will play Frederico Fonseca, an attractive young doctor.

"Let's hope it's a prescription for success - I'm working on my bedside manner," said Mr Mistry who has appeared on film in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, as well as popping up on The Bill, City Central and Silent Witness.

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