The Gatiss Defense

Doctor Who writer and Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss has said that judging the success of a show based on overnight figures is “insane” – adding that the legacy Doctor Who leaves will outlast anything Bake Off or The X Factor can supply.

“The ratings system is insane and iniquitious,” Gatiss – who has written upcoming Who episode Sleep No More – tells the latest issue of Radio Times. “I’ve seen grown men crying because their show got 6.3 million [viewers] instead of a hoped-for 6.5. They make a difference to a person’s career.”

The subject of ratings has dogged this series of Doctor Who, with the first episode of series nine falling to a reported ’10-year low’ – when scheduled against The X Factor and the Rugby World Cup.

Overnight figures are measured by The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) and calculated using 5,100 households with special set-top boxes, which track what each member of the family is watching when. From those numbers, estimates for the whole viewing population can be made.

5100 people to decide what 16 millions see. That is very old tech. But then again, lots of bean counters are old. The paradigm is old.

However, as Gatiss explains, these polls only provide a “thumbnail sketch” of the entire audience, and do not take into account viewers on services like BBC iPlayer. 

The result, Gatiss argues, is that undue pressure is put on the show every year: “That’s the modern world we live in and I’m not being defensive, but when you add everything together – timeshifting, plus iPlayer – [Doctor Who’s] ratings are the same as they ever were. But there is no capital in saying ‘Doctor Who’s ratings remain roughly the same’, so people make a story out of it.”

Just under five million people watched the series nine opener starring Peter Capaldi according to overnight figures. The Great British Bake Off 2015 opener by contrast earned almost double that, and the final was watched by an average of 13.4 million.

So a Baking competition is twice as good as Doctor Who, so we need twice as many of them and less of Doctor Who, right?

Strictly Come Dancing is the #1 show on Saturday night for the BBC with 10 million on the ratings. So it must be twice as popular as Doctor Who, right? 🙂

But Gatiss warns against comparing the “temporary popularity” of shows like Bake Off and The X Factor with a show with a “proper legacy” such as Doctor Who.

But Dancing & Baking get higher ratings. And ratings mean popularity. Ratings mean everything, right?

We need more Dancing and more Baking! 🙂

Reality shows are King. So therefore, we need more of them…

“Those episodes of Bake Off or The X Factor, and their virtues are manifest, will never be watched again. Yet Doctor Who will be watched in 50 years’ time, 100 years’ time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I love things to be popular, I want things to be watched, but this sort of scrutiny is deadly.”

But Broadcasters, who can only see past the last rating don’t think that way. If they did, the BBC would not have wiped all those Doctor Who episodes 40-45 years ago.

Broadcaster don’t see past the last episode. As I have said, especially in the US, the program is an excuse to put something between the commercials. The fact that the Nielsen Ratings in this country are are outdated and that things like streaming, DVRs, and the internet have made them inaccurate is not going to phase them because it’s the only crutch/paradigm they have to go on and they have to be able to assess the risk of letting any particular show continue next week. Time is money.

The fact that broadcasters keep “re-inventing” shows from the baby boomer past to try and get ratings says more about the creative dearth than anything else. It also shows how desperate they are, for the Baby Boomers are the last generation they understood. The last generation that played by the rules.

People can be very frightened of change.

Gatiss also echoes Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat’s concern that this series has been pushed back later and later, “cutting off your key audience, which is children.” Moffat himself told earlier this month that the later slot has had an impact on viewing figures.

Of course it has. But Strictly Come Dancing has higher ratings so it gets the prime slot. The fact that the BBC is hurting the audience it wants to attract (and thus the ratings) by putting it on or after 8pm is a problem without a solution.

They won’t take the highest rated show off it’s time slot because that would hurt their over all Network Ratings.

But they are hurting the ratings of a British institution.

It’s the sort of conundrum that can only be solved by going with the money, aka the ratings. So what if the ratings system your using was outmoded a decade or more ago, it’s all they have so they are going to go with it.

The risk too great. The paradigm must be.

“Unless [journalists] are gonna start reporting football matches in the middle, why are you reporting overnights?” Moffat said. “If you look at consolidated [ratings], we’re fine. We’re slightly down because we’re on a later slot, which I don’t think is the smartest move we’ve ever made. No one’s to blame for it but I don’t think 8:25pm is right for Doctor Who. (RT)

It isn’t. But what can you do. The Ratings Star Quarterback is calling, the kids will just have to wait their turn.

It’s Pointless to resist. 🙂


About mydoctor1962

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

Posted on November 10, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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