Timey Wimey Ratings

News of my death (Doctor Who) have been greatly exaggerated. But that doesn’t stop the media naysayers from jumping on their own bandwagon and trumpeting loudly.

Den of Geek: Inevitably, the naysayers have been out in force given the early figures for Doctor Who series 9’s debut episode, “The Magician’s Apprentice,” over the weekend. The first ratings for the show suggested that 4.58 million people had tuned in to watch the program as it broadcast on BBC One. That’s lower than the figure for any episode in series 8, and a good way down from Peter Capaldi’s debut, “Deep Breath” (which started with an overnight figure of 6.8m).

Now: 4.58 million is a long, long way from the final number. By the time iPlayer requests are factored in, along with those who “taped” it using services such as Sky+, it’s likely that the final number will be at least 3 million viewers higher, at the very least. There’s a BBC Three repeat to add, too. Then there’s the small matter of the sizeable international audience for Doctor Who, which will ensure that tens of millions of people at least will have watched “The Magician’s Apprentice” by this time next week.





New York – September 21, 2015 – BBC AMERICA’s Doctor Who rang in season 9 with a bang, delivering double digit growth from season 8 across all key demos in live plus same day ratings. The premiere episode ranks as Doctor Who’s biggest season premiere ever in the Adult 18-49 demo, which nearly doubled the season 8 average. The season debut also saw increased social engagement versus last season’s premiere, and reigned as the most social drama of the night and week leading into the premiere.

“Doctor Who is unlike anything else on television, a storied franchise that is as fresh and contemporary as ever, with brilliant writing and superb performances,” said Sarah Barnett, President of BBC AMERICA. “We couldn’t be more thrilled that new and returning Doctor Who fans tuned into the live premiere in record numbers and we look forward to bringing more of the Doctor to this passionate audience.”

The premiere telecast delivered 2 million total viewers and 1.1 million Adults 18-49.  Among A18-49, Doctor Who propelled BBC AMERICA to #3 in its timeslot, out-delivering the big 4 broadcast networks and ranking only behind college football on ESPN and the finale of Sábado Gigante on Univision.

In the A18-49 demo, Doctor Who is now one of just 14 dramas on TV this season to show any growth from its prior season premiere (out of 100+ returning dramas).

The A18-49 audience ranks as Doctor Who’s biggest season premiere ever on BBC AMERICA, nearly doubling the S8 average (+95%). In the demo, episode 901 ranks among the top 10 returning cable drama premieres this season, beating Homeland, Suits and The Strain, among others.

DofG: So this isn’t an article suggesting that Doctor Who‘s ratings are in decline. They’re shifting, certainly, and I doubt too many people were chuffed with the comparably low number who tuned in on Saturday. Yet reports of Doctor Who‘s demise tend to be exaggerated, and this is no exception.

But something clearly has changed: and that’s that Doctor Who is arguably no longer what could be described as ‘event’ television. Over the course of the series, with two-parters and cliffhangers to come, that may change. Yet right now, even with spoilers spilling onto social networking services, the compulsion to sit and watch the show the minute it’s transmitted is clearly in decline.

I don’t think the BBC has done Doctor Who too many favors in that regard. Over the past few years, the show has been something of a scheduling football, rarely in a consistent time slot on a Saturday. There’s no sense that at 7pm on a Saturday night, for instance, that Doctor Who will be on. Saturday’s episode, for instance, screened at 7:40pm. I’d put hard cash down now that it won’t stay in that slot for the next 11 weeks.

But it will be up against very stiff competition. That network trick is older than I am.

That’s in large part down to servicing the needs of Strictly Come Dancing, which – since Doctor Who returned in 2005 – has become BBC One’s big Saturday night ratings winner. When Strictly needs to be longer, everything else – pardon the pun – has to dance around it. Doctor Who included. I’d argue that if Doctor Who had the same time slot every week, it’d at least have a sporting chance of increasing its “live” audience, if indeed the desire is to do that.

That said, the way television drama in particular is being devoured has changed sizeably over the past decade. While there are occasional exceptions – the simulcast of episodes of Game of Thrones or the Lost finale – the majority of TV drama is being lapped up in arrears. That is, a large part of the audience isn’t watching live. In some cases, people are awaiting the box set, so they can “binge watch” the whole lot. Again, Doctor Who included.

But still: I do think something’s being lost. There are many great things about Doctor Who, and one of them is that it’s one of the few programs that attracts a genuine family audience. That everyone can sit and watch it in one room. Technology has made this more challenging than ever – after all, there’s barely a room in any house that can’t be reached with a screen now – but occasionally, a show manages it.

I’d argue, though, that Doctor Who was the last show to make such an “event” drama. The episode in question? “The Day of the Doctor,” the 50th anniversary special that was lapped up on BBC One, across the world, and in cinemas. Not content with breaking into the top ten at the UK cinema box office, “The Day of the Doctor” garnered an even bigger audience than “The End of Time Part 2,: at 12.8m. It felt like a proper event, and that was only two years ago.

Even appreciating that a 50th birthday is a one-off occasion, it does mean that twice in the last six years, Doctor Who has proven its ability to be show that doesn’t just adapt to current viewing trends, but also has the power to resist them.

All of this doesn’t mean that a 4.58m rating leaves Doctor Who in trouble.

But I for one hope that, as storylines develop this series, there are those episodes that you simply have to watch there and then, and want to get to as quickly as possible.

In an era when Netflix will release an entire season of a show in one go, and when box sets – both real and Sky pretend ones – appear to be ruling the proverbial roost, I like that a show can break against that trend, leave a week between episodes, and have viewers looking forward to what’s coming next. There’s no British drama better placed than Doctor Who for that, and if it can continue to warrant its occasional “event viewing” tag, that’d be no small achievement.

That said, as long as it’s watched at some point, and as long as it keeps getting made, I’m not going to grumble…

Agreed. 🙂


About mydoctor1962

Doctor Who fan like few others. Also a fan of Science Fiction, Cooking Shows and more.

Posted on September 22, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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