Doctor Who enters uncharted territory this week as a new release strategy breaks all the old rules

It’s a strange new world for Doctor Who (and yes, they really must go and visit them some day.) Many fans consider the Saturday night teatime slot an almost sacred part of its formula. But the show has actually bounced around the schedules more than you’d think down the years. But it’s never done this before. This season each episode will drop on iPlayer at midnight on Friday, just as the bells ring in the earliest hour of Saturday morning. There’s still the traditional showing on BBC One on Saturday evening, of course. But even though more and more viewers have been flowing to iPlayer over the past several years, the new change may well burst the damn and turn that flow into a tidal wave. But what impact is that already having for the first two episodes, Space Babies and The Devil’s Chord?

For the moment, it’s hard to tell. The overnight viewing figure had long since become little more than a gentle nod in the direction of where the genuinely significant ratings might wind up. Now, however, they give us little insight at all. Crucially, they don’t include the iPlayer numbers. This means they’re missing about 18 hours of people streaming the episodes before they even went out on BBC One. Perhaps over time, as data points accumulate, we will be able to build a picture of the relationship between the TV only overnights and the iPlayer result. But for now the below numbers are simply single snapshots of incomplete information.


The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) & Ruby Sunday (MILLIE GIBSON in The Devil's Chord ),BBC Studios/Bad Wolf,Natalie Seery Doctor Who
The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) & Ruby Sunday (MILLIE GIBSON in The Devil’s Chord ),BBC Studios/Bad Wolf,Natalie Seery

As largely expected, BBC One overnight viewing figures dropped considerably but we won’t know how many moved to iPlayer until next week

As our first example, Space Babies was watched on BBC One by an audience of 2.55m. That’s a massive 46% drop from previous episode The Church on Ruby Road’s 4.73m overnight. It’s down almost as much from previous season premiere The Halloween Apocalypse, dropping 1.88m (42.4%) series to series.

The Devil’s Chord scored a viewing figure of 2.42m. That’s down 0.13m (5.1%) from the first half of the double bill. Comparing to the second episode of Series 13, it’s down 1.54m (38.9%) from War of the Sontarans.

That places Space Babies and Devil’s Chord, #2 and #3, respectively for the night, beaten only by the Eurovision grand final. Still, under normal circumstances such a drop in overnights would be a shock. With the new iPlayer first strategy, though, it’s almost to be expected. Other shows that have adopted similar strategies before, some even going so far as to drop entire series at once, with BBC One taking weeks to catch up. Certainly, in many of those cases, even very low overnights ultimately translated into massive hits in the final viewing figures.

It’s impossible to say if any of that apparent drop is genuine, and how much simply a shift to streaming. At least, not until next Monday, when the +7 result will be available, including iPlayer numbers. This year, clearly, those +7 results will be even more eagerly awaited than every before.


Ruby Sunday (MILLIE GIBSON) & The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) ,BBC Studios/Bad Wolf,James Pardon Doctor Who Boom
Ruby Sunday (MILLIE GIBSON) and the Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) in Boom ,BBC Studios/Bad Wolf,James Pardon

Doctor Who continues next Friday at midnight BST with Boom on iPlayer in the UK, and on Disney+ everywhere else except Ireland






  1. So will iPlayer (abd Disney+ as it dropped at midnight) count be inline with what would be accurate numbers as it would be a real (for instance) premear on BBC like ir would be at the original regular time. Because that is what would REALLY give us the true viewer numbers. Not watching at ones convenience. Oh and midnight Friday night…that’s Saturday morningšŸ¤·

    • The iPlayer numbers will be include as they are part of the regular 7 day / 28 day etc numbers that we regularly publish. However, the Disney+ will not be part of these as we only publish UK numbers


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