The Ratings Game
Forbes: The ratings for Doctor Who in the UK are terrible.
The time slot, 8:20 at night or later is horrible also!
Even the BBC’s usual spin – that low overnight figures are boosted by people catching up during the week after transmission, thus increasing the final “consolidated” figure – won’t wash for the current series.
Last Saturday’s episode (October 10) got an overnight rating of 4.38 million viewers – losing, on the same night, to the low-budget medical soap Casualty (which got 4.42 million). Doctor Who‘s share of viewing, at 21.52 per cent, was lower even than the unremarkable game show Pointless Celebrities earlier that evening (which scored 21.60 per cent).
And the consolidated figures for the previous week (October 3) tell an equally unhappy story. Despite a whopping 52.8 per cent uplift during the week from catch-up viewing, Doctor Who consolidated at just 5.63 million viewers. Its viewing share, at 22.02 per cent, barely matches BBC One’s average all-hours share for 2015 so far, at 21.99 per cent.
These are crisis figures for Doctor Who. Indeed for any other old, declining drama series, such a vertiginous year-on-year fall – down from a consolidated average of 7.4 million viewers per episode in 2014 – would almost certainly mean The End.
But it won’t for Doctor Who. And there are some good reasons why: this is a show with a 52-year history, with a hard core of devoted fans, and with the possibility – which most other drama series simply don’t have – to regenerate on-screen as well as behind the scenes. (You couldn’t just CGI a new aristocratic family into Downton Abbey, for example.)
At the same time, the BBC has four very unappealing reasons not to axe Doctor Who.
First, it makes a lot of money overseas, not least in the US. As Top Gear‘s future wobbles, BBC top brass won’t want to see another cash cow evaporate. But foreign revenues simply shouldn’t be a reason for British TV licence-fee payers to keep a dying show on life support.
Remember 1985! 🙂
Second, it’s scheduled on Saturday evenings. BBC management have made a lot of noise lately about how important it is for BBC One to compete with ITV on Saturdays. Doctor Who, theoretically at least, is an important weapon in that Saturday armoury.
But this is a double-edged sword because of it’s late time slot, due to the BBC not ITV, and the competition factor (no pun intended) the rating ARE horrible.
The age old strategy of counter-programming is not working!
What family show for the under 10 set (and the family itself) is on at 8:20 where the episode ends post-watershed!
Third, it’s made in Wales. For the BBC to keep making network shows in the devolved nations of the UK is politically expedient – and Doctor Who is the cornerstone of a big drama production strategy in Cardiff.
And fourth, the BBC’s constitutional royal charter is up for renewal. It’s an unthinkable prospect for current BBC management to admit that they are the ones who have let Doctor Who get so bad that it needs to be axed – even if, for viewers, the prospect of more episodes of Doctor Who is worse.
All of which, regardless of Doctor Who‘s ratings and creative health, will save the show’s bacon.
But will the bacon be worth consuming??
Which is a shame, because a more rational approach could, ironically, be good for the show. It would hold Doctor Who‘s current creative team to account. It would prompt a discussion about the creative direction of the series – its target audience, its series structure, its totally incomprehensible stories, its dreadful symphonic music.
I like the music. the rest of it, yeah, Moffat needs to go. We need new blood in the top spot.
Most importantly of all – and even though I actually quite like him in the role – the British public clearly haven’t taken to Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.
He’s a great Doctor, but at 8:20 at night he’s not well seen.
The regeneration of the character, not to mention the regeneration of the show, would be much easier if BBC management were paying more attention to the right priorities.
But Networks rarely do that. Firefly, anyone?