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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ breaks ratings records in the U.S.

But it’s not quite how it sounds. The Mirror:

The first episode of the new Dr Who series was watched by 1.2 million viewers at the weekend.

This is the biggest draw BBC America has ever had. And it’s pretty good for a basic cable channel that doesn’t even reach huge chunks of the American audience — including enormous swaths of the New York Metropolitan Area. But it’s not better than the ratings the show was getting on the Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy): the season four finale had 1.264 million viewers. (Though Matt Smith’s numbers are better on a comparative basis, because fewer people overall are able to watch BBC America.)
Still… With 300 million people in the U.S., under 2 million means Doctor Who is still relegated to cult status. (A hit show like American Idol will get 20 to 30 million viewers for a finale; a show like the excellent FlashForward is likely to be cancelled because it can’t garner more than 6 million viewers per episode.)

By contrast: With only 30 million people in Canada, Matt Smith’s debut still drew 1 million viewers on the network Space, according to The Toronto Star. And with only 60 million people in the U.K., 8 million people there watched Matt Smith’s debut a few weeks ago.

Guess it’s a good thing I’m used to funny looks when I talk about Doctor Who in mixed company.



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  • If we’re going to compare to SyFy’s ratings, another news story (lost the link) noted that BBC America’s ratings for this episode were better than any Doctor Who season premiere from those 4 seasons they ran the show.

    FWIW.

  • Kathy A

    Guess it’s a good thing I’m used to funny looks when I talk about Doctor Who in mixed company.

    I’m thrilled if I hear the show name-checked on another tv series. When NCIS mentioned it (of course, it was McGee the geek who compared a storage container to the TARDIS), I was quite shocked; probably the first time most of its viewers had ever heard of Doctor Who.

  • Monica

    I’m thrilled if I hear the show name-checked on another tv series. When NCIS mentioned it (of course, it was McGee the geek who compared a storage container to the TARDIS), I was quite shocked; probably the first time most of its viewers had ever heard of Doctor Who.

    I believe the EP of NCIS is an Aussie, that may be why the TARDIS namecheck.

    That was a cool scene though! Thought I had misheard McGeek at first, but I also loved clueless DiNozzo, with the typical American response.

  • Lisa

    you LIKE Flashforward? oh MaryAnn!

  • MaryAnn

    *FlashForward* is made of awesome. It’s even better than the book (by Robert Sawyer) it’s based on.

  • Mo

    Two things to remember about those Canadian numbers, though:

    The New Doctor Who was well promoted on the CBC at the start and got a lot of new viewers that way, who were willing to follow it when the CBC got bored with it.

    The Space channel is owned by CTV, the biggest broadcaster in the country, and they were promoting the premiere big time on CTV itself. More than that, they were doing it smartly- I think I mainly noticed the ads during shows like Lost, V, and Flash Forward if I remember right. (And it was a really good ad.)

    Since most people who have cable here get Space, BBC America numbers aren’t exactly the fairest comparison. Glad to hear it is still doing well here, though.

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