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  • Let's Kill This Myth!

    Doctor Who's ratings are in freefall, are they? Well, they are if you believe The Sun, The Guardian, and a number of other newspapers. In fact, this myth is spreading so quickly that people might actually start BELIEVING it! But let's take a look at why this simply ISN'T TRUE.

    For the purposes of this, let's ignore all the Specials (the Christmas episodes, plus the 2009 one-offs), as they rather distort averages. So let's just look at each 13-part run, and look at viewings within the first seven days only, so everything is on as equal a playing field as possible.

    2005 SERIES (13 eps: Rose to The Parting of the Ways)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.95 million

    Average BBC Three rating for first week repeats: 0.73 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One & BBC Three): 8.68 million

    2006 SERIES (13 eps: New Earth to Doomsday)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.71 million

    Average BBC Three rating for first week repeats: 1.01 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One & BBC Three): 8.72 million

    2007 SERIES (13 eps: Smith and Jones to Last of the Time Lords)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.55 million

    Average BBC Three rating for first week repeats: 1.34 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One & BBC Three): 8.89 million

    2008 SERIES (13 eps: Partners in Crime to Journey’s End)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 8.05 million

    Average BBC Three rating for first week repeats: 1.64 million

    Average BBC iPlayer views for first week views: 0.51 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One, BBC Three & iPlayer): 10.20 million

    2010 SERIES (13 eps: The Eleventh Hour to The Big Bang)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.70 million

    Average BBC Three and BBC HD ratings for first week repeats: 1.01 million

    Average BBC iPlayer views for first week views: 1.14 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One, BBC HD, BBC Three & iPlayer): 9.85 million

    2011 SERIES (first 9 episodes only, for which full figures are currently available)

    Average BBC One final BARB rating: 7.64 million

    Average BBC Three ratings for first week repeats: 0.99 million

    Average BBC iPlayer views for first week views: 1.14 million

    Average audience across all outlets (ie BBC One, BBC HD, BBC Three & iPlayer): 9.77 million

    The general trends I would note are as follows:

    * Even if you just include final BBC One figures, the lowest rated series is 2007’s (7.55 million), and the highest is 2008’s (8.05 million). For all six series to fall within these slim boundaries, is remarkable.

    * For the first few years, the slight drop in BBC One ratings was more than made up for by increasing BBC Three figures.

    * When iPlayer first comes in (2008 series), we are slightly altering the playing field, as the earlier series didn’t have this as an option. Understandably, this has helped the ‘total’ figures – but even if we assume that a small handful of iPlayer viewers are repeat viewers, Doctor Who is still well up on its 2005 numbers. Indeed, even if we IGNORE iPlayer altogether, and ONLY focus on BBC One and BBC Three screenings, the 2010 and 2011 series are easily on a par with the 2005, 2006 and 2007 series.

    * The 2008 series is the standout performer – but only by a small margin in front of the other five series. This can partially be put down to the final half of the series which concluded with Journey’s End, the return of Rose, the return of Davros, the fake regeneration etc etc. Journey’s End was the top rated show of the week, and amassed almost 15 million viewers across all outlets, so this really gave a boost to the series average.

    So, why do we get these tabloid reports of Doctor Who's falling ratings? Well, that's because they're reporting OVERNIGHTS – which means the number of people that watched the show 'live' on BBC One each Saturday. The BARB figures I've listed above are FINAL figures, which include those who record the programme to watch back within seven days. Hence, an episode like 'A Good Man Goes to War', shown in June, may have a reported overnight rating of 5.5 million, but its final BARB rating was 7.5 million (plus BBC Three and iPlayer views, of course, which actually take the episode's total audience well over 9 million).

    Doctor Who tends to add far more viewers via 'timeshifting' (recordings, repeats or iPlayer) than live shows – or even other dramas – and so when newspapers report overnight ratings, they are doing the series a dissevice.

    17Comments

    • 1. 21-Sep-2011 12:09:00byCockney Charmer

      Tabloid Press...all they can do is attack and try to bring down something they will never understand but are happy to use to headline papers so they increase their sales quota.

      In the modern world of Digital viewing, and so many different ways to watch a programme, some people and families may not watch the show at point of broadcast but watch it by a recording, BBC iPlayer, repeat on BBC3 etc....Fans will watch the show multiple times, I do....its time the press stopped trying to instill panic in fans and create issues where they dont exist and just get on with telling the news based on fact rather then making it up based on rumours!

      I hope the team behind the show, Steve Moffat and writers, production team, cast led by Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill and the teams behind DW Confidential and DW Magazine have the support of its fans without question, and that is a global fanbase that equates to more then the readership base of a tabloid paper!

    • 2. 21-Sep-2011 12:15:00bysteven

      Its so bad its good these days, I think. Did prefer it before though. Great cast, at the moment but very poor writing.

    • 3. 21-Sep-2011 12:35:00byNot liking it so much

      But it would be fair to say the Audience Appreciation figures are down on previous seasons, would it not?

    • 4. 21-Sep-2011 12:54:00byMatthew

      Many of the stories have been corrected due to apparnelt "editing errors". Whoops.

    • 5. 21-Sep-2011 13:52:00bymik

      Love articles like this, really puts things into perspective for us Who fans when bombarded with all these Tabloid tattles. However hows this for a suggestion. Is there any possiblilty of perhaps DWM trying to get an interview with one of the BBC personell to give us their take on these figures. It seems they are somehow 'reluctant' to promote their own success sometimes beyond simple soundbites like 'the show is doing well' and leaving it up to kind folks like yourself to interpret the figures for us. I dont know maybe its just me but it is kind of depressing to see such good work not hailed as much as it should by the powers that be (at least in public)

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My name is Tom Spilsbury. I am the editor of Doctor Who Magazine. This is a blog where I might occasionally post things which amuse, perplex, or irritate me.

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