“Doctor Who” will be back on global screens in early 2020, with Jodie Whittaker returning in her groundbreaking role as the show’s first regular female timelord. The show was renewed by the BBC amid mixed overnight but strong consolidated numbers in the U.K., and strong ratings in the U.S.
British viewers tuned in in droves to the first episode of the current season. With 11 million viewers (consolidated), it was the second-biggest drama audience of the year and the best launch for “Doctor Who” in a decade in the U.K.
Overnight ratings declined steadily over the course of the series, falling to 5 million for the ninth episode (7 million consolidated). Sunday’s finale delivered 5.3 million viewers. British tabloids have suggested that viewers tuned out because the new season was too “politically correct,” but the fall in overnight ratings is not unusual and follows that of earlier seasons.
It also reflects modern viewing patterns, with many fans and, notably, younger viewers watching the show on catch-up. The BBC said the average consolidated audience through the first eight episodes was 8.4 million, significantly above the last season of “Doctor Who,” starring Peter Capaldi, whose average was below 6 million. The current season was the second most-requested series on the BBC’s iPlayer in October, the busiest month ever for the catch-up service.
In the U.S., Whittaker and her team notched a ratings win for BBC America, which said it was the fastest-growing scripted show of the year. Ahead of Sunday’s final episode, BBC America reported that the show was up 47% season-on-season, with young female viewers driving the growth. The show averaged 1.6 million viewers through its first eight episodes in the U.S.
BBC America, which is a joint venture between the BBC and AMC, announced that the new season would land in early 2020 when the current run drew to a close Sunday. The BBC denied reports that production had slipped, noting that the show has previously had different launch dates. The current season was filmed from October 2017 to August 2018.
Fans of the iconic sci-fi series will still get some “Doctor Who” action in 2019, with a seasonal special starring Whittaker moving from its traditional Christmas Day slot to New Year’s Day on BBC One in the U.K. and BBC America in the U.S.
As the latest season got underway, Chris Chibnall, the program’s new showrunner, told Variety that the team was mindful of creating a show that stood shoulder to shoulder with the best that streaming giants like Netflix can offer. Chibnall will return as showrunner for the new season.
“We adore making this show and have been blown away by the response from audiences, so we can’t wait to bring more scares, more monsters and more Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole to BBC One,” Chibnall said.
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