OK so using a simple average is a fairly blunt instrument, but it gives us a rough view of how well things have gone for Doctor Who since 2005. And to be honest, not too badly at all. Forget all the anecdotal evidence about how all your mates think it's rubbish, and The Sun says it's shedding viewers by the ton (that last one is based on the overnight figures). Just look at the red columns.
Since 2005, between 7 and 8 milion viewers have continued to watch Doctor Who (apart from the Specials year of course, but then that was "special" wasn't it?). If you want to make a case for the dip between Series 1 and 2, well say that's the honeymoon period wearing off. Series 3 a bit lower? 3rd year of Who and a few viewers don't like Tennant. Series 4? Ummm...OK maybe new viewers are warming to the most popular Doctor in his third year.
You can make more and more elaborate theories if you want, but the fact remains that Doctor Who has a core audience that never dips below 7 million. 9 years on that audience often prefers to do other things when Doctor Who is on, but will continue to use new technology to watch it up to a week later. It isn't shedding viewers, it isn't declinng, and it isn't about to be cancelled. Series 7 was slightly unusual in having a highly-rated 50th Anniversary Special in there (10 million Final Viewers), which inflated the average viewing figures somewhat. Take this away and Season 6, 7 and 8 look more or less the same (7.5, 7.4, 7.4 respectively).
Now that Series 8 has finished we do see that the Final figures are the lowest of the whole of the new series of Doctor Who. However these are based on the BARB figures, which do not take into account viewed repeats, and in particular the number of views through IPlayer. These are now starting to be published as the "L+7" figure, which as you can see from the extra bar on Series 8 is actually adding between 1 and 2 million viewers per story. The L+7 figures take over 30 days to be published, so are only in for the first 5 stories of Season 8, which is probably skewing the results. But as we can see, Series is probably going to end up looking higher than Series 7...but then factoring in the same "extra" viewers (which did exist a year ago), Series 7 would probably look higher than Series 4!
July 2017 - Well since I wrote the above paragraphs 3 years ago, I have noticed many changes, both in viewing figures of Doctor Who, but also in viewing habits themselves. As mentioned elsewhere (in Series 10), I've finally taken into account Audience Share. Yes we have noticed what apears to be a drop in viewing figures since Series 8 began, and yes a new older Doctor could be part of the effect. However, Doctor Who consistently captures around 22-25% of the Audience Share. This means that the Overnight figures for any episode are always about 22% of the total viewers on that night. So if the Overnights are down, but the Share is constant...there must be a drop in overall viewers for that night.
And this is indeed what we find. Less people are watching terrestrial, cable or satellite on the night. Why is this? Where are they going? Well they're probably watching Netflix or Amazon, neither of whom show up in viewing figures. Or they're watching Doctor Who on IPlayer. Or they're watching Blu-Rays. Or they're illegally streaming torrents. Whatever the reason, less and less people are watching TV on the night, but more and more are watching on Catch-up.
So, rather than re-write the whole page, I think I'll let my earlier comments stand as testiment to how things can change.
- Spacewarp July 2017