It seems you can't pick up a newspaper - or indeed visit certain websites - without being confronted by seemingly "gloating" articles which maintain that the viewing figures for Season 6 of "Doctor Who" were bad. Without mentioning any particular newspaper, some have said that the figures are significantly down from the 7-8 million "expected". Is this true? No. Newspapers report the "overnight" figures, not the final consolidated BARB ratings that are released usually about a week after transmission.
Having done a bit of research, below you will find the overnight figures and the consolidated BARB figures, together with the Audience Appreciation Index per episode. Iplayer figures are now available for most episodes (as at 18 October 2011 the only current exception being "The Wedding of River Song") - however, these figures show viewings only in the first week of availability on the service. The BBC don't seem to like releasing these figures and you have to jump through a hoop or two to find them. (NB - As at 9 October 2011, the figures below have now been updated with the final BARB ratings for "The Wedding of River Song").
A note about the Audience Appreciation Index. The BBC average is 82. An AI figure of 85 and over is rated as "excellent".
The Impossible Astronaut
Day of the Moon
Curse of the Black Spot
The Doctor’s Wife
The Rebel Flesh
The Almost People
A Good Man Goes to War
Let’s Kill Hitler
The Girl Who Waited
The God Complex
The Wedding of River Song
Just looking at these figures a few things immediately become apparent. On average, the BARB figures are approximately 2million higher than the overnights. The iplayer figures average over 1million in the first week following transmission and the AI does not drop out of the "excellent" category at all. Pretty good for a show that newspapers seem to think is "failing".
The main issue appears to be that the newspapers will not wait a week for the final BARB figures - either because of publishing deadlines or simply because the figures are not what they want to see. Falling ratings is a better story than the fact that the show is doing just as well, if not better, than it always has.
Viewing habits have changed significantly with the advent of such things as iplayer. You don't even need to set the dvd recorder now - you can simply watch when you like on iplayer. This is why I think it's almost criminal for the final BARB ratings NOT to include this figure. Surely it's better for the BBC to say "Doctor Who gets average ratings of 8.7 - 9m" instead of "Doctor Who gets ratings of 7.50m...but then you have to take into account the unknown iplayer viewings which we're not prepared to tell you about..."
Remember the "Newsline" report from earlier this year? "The Impossible Astronaut" broke all records by becoming the "most recorded tv show of all time". Out of the final BARB rating of 8.9m, it appears that 4.1m recorded it to watch later. It just goes to show that an awful lot of people "time shift" their viewing of the show. And why not? The technology is there so use it.
Viewing figures need not be confusing. What is the point of "overnight" figures anymore? They're a vague pointer, that's all. Ignore them. Take the final BARB figures, add about 1m - 1.5m for iplayer and you have a much more accurate figure. The BBC COULD choose to make this easy. Unfortunately, they don't.
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