If I were BBC right now, I would have made a deal in January. I’ve seen my amazing show Sherlock gaining in intense popularity, and seen my competitor ITV’s Downton Abbey doing even better. I would look at BBC America’s ratings for their shows and think “where are the people?”. Yes, Orphan Black has gotten some accolades, but the viewers are just not pouring in. So I would have made a deal in January. A one-time move:
Put the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who on PBS.
Yes, BBC America (BBCA) would be upset, having to release their own mothership show to another network. But the overall view is much, much bigger.
PBS gets into every home in America. The amount of people who’d watch that episode would be more than any previous Doctor Who broadcast on BBCA. Also, it’d introduce the show to a new amount of people as well. And it’s not an entirely foreign idea. Doctor Who used to be on PBS during its original run, even playing its 20th year anniversary special. Multiple individual stations have even played episodes from the current series. So the idea is not so far-fetched.
But here’s why it’ll never happen: commercials. Unless PBS is ready to throw money at BBC (which they won’t), BBC would be losing precious advertising dollars for the special event. In addition, they will premiere the new series Atlantis following the special, and they wouldn’t get the amount of viewers they’d want.
However, I’d rebuttal that PBS would still have to mention the fact that Doctor Who was “brought to you by BBC”, and “you can see more episodes at BBC America”. Boom. Advertisement for your network. How many networks advertise for BBC America? Not many, let me tell you. PBS would have been a great leaping point, expanding the audience to not just Doctor Who, but for all their other broadcasts. Then, long-term, you’ll have more viewers of Doctor Who and your network as a whole. On BBCA, Doctor Who‘s record of viewers is 1.9 million people. With PBS, you could score probably 4 million, minimum. Perhaps even more, since exponentially more people watch PBS than BBC America.
I understand, however, that this sort of thing would have never worked. BBC has an american market now. Sherlock is a show that intrigues the PBS audience. Doctor Who could bring back a certain nostalgia, not PBS viewers won’t entirely catch on. It’s just unfortunate that people won’t be able to see the greatest that the show actually is. I guess actual viewers deprived of BBCA will have to resort to watching it illegally, or perhaps they bought a ticket to see it select theaters in 3D. That’s what I had to do. I don’t have cable. But I sure have PBS.
So perhaps, even on the day of the doctor, BBCA’s biggest day could have been bigger.