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Published on September 27th, 2011 | by Christian Cawley

Radio Times Wades into Ratings Fuss

Well, that’s re-opened a can of worms. Yesterday Doctor Who fans across the web mobilised in support of the show in the face of poorly researched claims by The Guardian that audience figures were falling after the show was twice beaten by All Star Family Fortunes.

To the rescue of fans everywhere came Doctor Who Magazine editor Tom Spilsbury, who (no doubt wearing his blue and gold badge for mathematical excellence) pulled together the figures to tell us the real story: pretty much business as usual.

So why one earth has the Radio Times website waded into the discussion? Well, it seems that have some useful information along the lines that Doctor Who is “posher” now that Christopher Eccleston isn’t the Time Lord (news flash, people…) and that according to them, “overall, there has been a ratings decline.”

Oh dear… didn’t we just sort this one out?

The consolidated television stats show Christopher Eccleston’s average audience was 7.95 million, and despite a rise to 8.33 million viewers per episode for David Tennant, Matt Smith is only managing 7.66 million per show.

Now those figures themselves are skewed as David Tennant enjoyed more special episodes than the other Doctors, their event nature and scheduling causing those episodes to increase the average.

The Radio Times’ poor figures are then poorly qualified with a quick bit of denial. Basically, they don’t really know the truth – no one does:

But these figures do not include the number of views Doctor Who receives on BBC iPlayer. The Beeb tell us that they can’t provide an episode-by-episode breakdown of on-demand figures, but we know the show does well online, and that’s sure to have had an effect on Matt Smith’s television audience more than the other two Doctors.

As the episodes are available for different amounts of time online, it is impossible to quantify exactly how significant the impact would be per episode if added to the television figures, but we do know, for example, that last season’s opening episode, The Eleventh Hour, ultimately earned 1.65 million views on iPlayer after spending several months online.

Late to the battle and providing the opposition with ammunition? Did Prescott Bush buy BBC Magazines?

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




7 Responses to Radio Times Wades into Ratings Fuss

  1. avatar Alex says:

    You forgot to mention the RT also states there’s been a decline in older viewership (of the 65+ variety). My dad’s 72 and he watches it religiously, so that’s nonsense.

  2. avatar TimeChaser says:

    The wolves are always circling. And it annoys me to no end that TV these days is so rigidly defined by the all-mighty ratings. Ratings obsession has killed off more than one promising show (Farscape leaps to mind).

  3. avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

    traditional print media is running scared – they are far more under threat than our venerable show…look to the decline in readership – they give me a broadsheet for free in Smiths when I buy DWM!

  4. avatar Cameron says:

    I don’t think you’ve read it properly. It’s actually a supportive piece. BARB consolidated ratings are down but it says it’s more popular online than ever before and I quote:

    “But these figures do not include the number of views Doctor Who receives on BBC iPlayer. The Beeb tell us that they can’t provide an episode-by-episode breakdown of on-demand figures, but we know the show does well online, and that’s sure to have had an effect on Matt Smith’s television audience more than the other two Doctors. “


    • @Cameron: no, I’ve read it properly. The whole matter was put to bed yesterday thanks to Tom Spilsbury and DW fans on the Guardian comments section. The RT specifies figures that are there to be jumped on by the critics. The article is just poorly timed, and from what I can see a disappointingly cynical attempt at comment bait. Hence the final, deserving line of the article.

      • avatar Cameron says:

        You’re right. I think it was not as mean spirited as some that I have read.

  5. avatar Ian O'Brien says:

    If you read the editorial in the current issue it says:
    Matt Smith is far more popular that Christopher Eccleston or even David Tennant.
    So much for the nation’s youth dumping down- its just those wrinkled scribblers who need to keep up.

    So that’s saying older fans can’t understand what is going on??

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