It is reported that EastEnders bosses are in crisis talks at the BBC because the soap has fallen 1.5m viewers behind Coronation Street for several months in a row – the first time this has happened in at least two years.

The Mirror claims BBC bosses have concerns that the soap's younger characters are alienating older viewers.

A show source said: "EastEnders is going through a major transition, and some of the BBC's senior managers are concerned the show might suffer long term if well-loved characters are sidelined."

The source continued: "In the last two months, viewers have seen lots of Lauren Branning, Lucy Beale, Whitney, Fatboy, Ben Mitchell, Jay, Abi Branning and Anthony Moon – but not nearly so much of the classic characters.

"Phil Mitchell is currently in prison, Sam Womack quit her role as Ronnie Mitchell last year, and Shane Richie's Alfie Moon has taken a back seat in the absence of wife Kat because Jessie Wallace is off for three months.

"At the moment there are more youngsters in Albert Square than there are in Hollyoaks.

"It's a worrying time, and urgent action is planned."

But an EastEnders spokesperson said: "We continually discuss where the show is going every month to ensure EastEnders remains fresh and at the top of its game.

"As ratings illustrate, it is in rude health consolidating with an average of more than nine million viewers every week."