Why The Decline in Overnight Ratings Doesn’t Matter
Guest contributor Will Atkinson explains why no one should panic.
Doctor Who fans have a tendency to worry about ratings more than fans of other shows, and with good reason. The show has been cancelled or been put on hiatus twice, and recently overnight ratings have begun to show a bit of decline. Cries of “this is worse than the 80’s!” and “it’s going to end up cancelled!” have been adorning message boards and blog posts across the dark recesses of the internet recently. But is there really any truth in these statements? Well, I don’t think so, and I’m going to try and tell you why…
Ratings and the BBC
Unlike most television channels, the BBC does not show adverts for anything except itself. This is because it has no need to, as, at least in the UK, its primary source of income is the TV license. The TV license is a sum of money that UK residents have to pay by law, basically, to watch TV channels. The BBC’s money from the TV licence isn’t dependent on ratings – this is why it can get away with having documentaries on BBC Four that no-one will ever watch, whereas other channels have to try and maximise viewership so as to make as much money as possible. Therefore, as it still has solid ratings, the BBC doesn’t have as much to lose by keeping it on air as other channels would. And talking of money…
Doctor Who Makes Shedloads of Cash
Did you mourn the passing of “Sonic Strawberry” Doctor Who Frubes? Are you awoken every morning by the sound of a TARDIS alarm clock*? Was your last birthday celebrated with a cake made with an official Dalek mould? Okay, so you might have answered ‘no’ to those last few questions, but you can still see my point. Look around your house. How much Doctor Who merchandise, DVDs and books do you have? For every piece of Doctor Who merchandise sold the BBC makes a bit more money, and that’s a lot of money it wouldn’t get if the show was cancelled. The BBC is a lot smarter than to kill off one of, if not, the biggest cash-cow it has, especially as one of its other biggest money-spinners is Sherlock, and I’m not sure Mr Moffat and Mr Gatiss would be terribly enthusiastic about making anymore of that if the BBC stopped the production of the other show that they’re currently working on.
Also, it’s not like Doctor Who is sapping BBC resources either. Despite the fact that it is one of the most expensive programs the cooperation makes, it turns a healthy profit every year, and more than adequately finances itself. So, from a financial point of view at least, Doctor Who is still secure.
Television Has Changed
In recent years, Doctor Who’s overnight ratings have decreased. However, the amount of people watching it on iPlayer, Sky Plus and the like has dramatically increased. This has had a profound effect on the actual ‘final’ ratings. These have blossomed in size, with increases of over two million becoming more and more common. This shows how much the way people are watching television has changed. It used to be something that you had to watch at a certain time, or you’d miss it. Now you can miss it but still have a chance to watch it soon after by setting it to record or just by watching it online. The BBC will obviously take this into account, and so while the overnights might look slightly underwhelming, the overall ratings are very good. Remember, the decline in ratings hasn’t just affected Doctor Who. Across the channels, ratings are starting to drop a little bit, so Doctor Who isn’t alone in this.
It’s Still Incredibly Popular
As you will all know, before the start of Series 8, Doctor Who went on a world tour, visiting major cities across the globe. How many other shows can still have the popularity and worth so that those making it can happily finance a trip around the world to promote its eighth series? And, following on from that, how many new shows these days manage to reach their eighth series? How many other programs on British television have been going strong (with the occasional lapse) for 51 years? How many other programs can throw themselves a 3D birthday bash that gets shown across the globe, takes the show in a new direction and then gets voted the best ever story? Not many, I can tell you.
Doctor Who’s all important “indefinable magic” is still going strong. Its ratings and popularity are going up all around the world. In the last nine years Doctor Who has cemented itself as one of the key programs of the modern age, and as one of the greatest shows ever made. Who in their right mind would cancel a show like this?
So, to conclude, I personally think that Doctor Who has nothing to worry about when it comes to ratings, and that it’ll still be on our screens for a while yet.
Therefore, it will now be terribly embarrassing for me if the Beeb do decide to cancel it.
*I have one, but I’ve stopped using it due to the fact it was incredibly annoying.