New Series 8 - The Ratings

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So here we are. New Series, new Doctor.  Series 8 begins with "Deep Breath" on the 23rd August 2014, and as usual online fandom and the popular media have been busily predicting the demise of the programme as a result of an actor over twice the age of the previous incumbant taking over the role, the move to an Autumn schedule (despite the fact that part of the previous 2 seasons started in the Autumn), and the departure of a popular Doctor.  To be honest though, everyone could do worse than look back at previous seasons in the New Series.  If we compare opening episodes we see how remarkably consistent they are:




Doctor's Debut

Series 1


10.8 million

Christopher Eccleston


"The Christmas Invasion"

9.8 million

David Tennant

Series 2

"New Earth"

8.6 million


Series 3

"Smith & Jones"

8.7 million


Series 4

"Partners in Crime"

9.1 million


Series 5

"The Eleventh Hour"

10.8 million

Matt Smith

Series 6

"The Impossible Astronaut"

8.8 million


Series 7

"Asylum of the Daleks"

8.3 million


Series 8

"Deep Breath"

9.2 million

Peter Capaldi

Opening stories appear to be around the 8-9 million mark, while a new Doctor seems to add an extra million (note I've ignored the 2009 "Specials year" as it isn't representative of a "normal" season of Doctor Who).  The 12th Doctor's debut seems to have missed that extra "New Doctor" million though, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the new series is a failure.  At 9.2 Million, it's on a par with Series 2,3,4,6 & 7.  Perhaps Peter Capaldi's familiarity to the general public has reduced the number of viewers tuning in "to see what the new Doctor is like".  It's quite possible that the BBC's decision to introduce the new Doctor to the world on live TV in August 2013 may well have sacrificed viewers for his debut story.

Notice that although David Tennant was the new Doctor for Series 2, it was his debut in "The Christmas Invasion" that saw this "New Doctor effect", making "New Earth" an ordinary "non debut" story.  This seems to reinforce the idea that unfamiliarity with a new actor brings in about 1 million extra viewers...but only for that one story.

"Into the Dalek" (5.2 million) has similar overnight ratings to Series 7's second story,"Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" (5.5 million) and Series 6's "Day of the Moon" (5.4 million).  Yes we know that Overnights do not the whole tale tell, but the comparison here is valid because both Series 6 and 7 have similar Timeshifts (20-25%), and up to this point Series 8 was looking no different at 25.8%, so it wasn't unreasonable to expect the Finals for the second story of Series 8 to be  around the same mark as Series 7 (7.6 million) and Series 6 (7.3 million). A week later we saw this is indeed the case, with 7.29 million viewers tuning in - a quite high Timeshift of 28.7%. 

A week before airing I predicted that the third story, "Robot of Sherwood" would bring in around 7.2 million for the Finals, if the Timeshift was the same.  The figure was 7.29 million, indicating that Peter Capaldi's Series 8 was beginning to look like Matt Smith's Series 6.

From "Listen" onwards the series has been pulling in just under 5 million viewers overnight, which does seem a horrendous drop.  However one has to factor in both the X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing fighting it out in the schedules, so Doctor Who seems to be ending up relegated to catch-up or Timeshift. Between "Listen" and "The Caretaker", Finals have fallen from 7 million to 6.8 million, making the average for Season 8 so far 7.43 million. This means it is now the least watched of the last 8 series.

But again, perspective is everything.  Matt Smith's Series 7 averaged 7.8 million in Final Ratings. Why might this be?  Well if we look at the second half of that series we see that 4 of the stories also failed to pull in 7 million viewers overall.  In fact that season's average is artificially high due to the presence of two "season openers" and a 50th Anniversary Special. If it weren't for "The Day of the Doctor", Series 7 would have averaged 7.44 million.  Let's look again.

Adjusting for "The Day of the Doctor" then, the Final figures for the last 4 years would look like this:  7.74M (Season 5), 7.52M (Season 6), 7.44M (Season 7), and 7.43M (Season 8).  It is tempting to speculate that this slow drop in figures (which do not seem to be related to the time of broadcast, or the actor playing the Doctor) might just be caused by the increasing ease by which BBC programmes can be watched on iPlayer, not only on laptops and desktop PCs, but on tablets and Smart TVs.  We already know that BARB consider iPlayer statistics to be of increased importance, as they have been monitoring them since October 2013.  Taking this into account (and adjusting for the 50th Anniversary Special) Series 8 is just as highly regarded as Series 7.    

-Spacewarp October 2014

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