2MTL #6: Last of the Doctor Who Shows?

OK, so this isn't about "shipping" after all. You've been spared for one episode. Instead, here's something prompted by Cory Doctorow's appearance on This Week in Tech 183. Doctorow has some strong opinions on digital freedom and its impact on Big Media — and let's face it, Doctor Who isn't exactly an actor, a guy with a camcorder, and a YouTube account. Internet-sapped attention spans, legal-and-otherwise free acquisition of TV shows and other media, and this little global economic meltdown have taken their toll on an evolving BBC, and not even Top Gear is immune.

What's it mean for Doctor Who? My two minutes' thoughts are in the podcast; what're yours?

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  1. The thing about fandom though, is it has a power extending beyond the confines of the set-top box. If your recent visit was any indication, our members buy truckloads of officially licensed merchandise, DVDs, books and periodicals. All of that sees its way back to the BBC coffers and keeps the program viable.

    We've already seen the impact of this with the planned simultaneous release of Torchwood on both sides of the pond this spring.

    Are our Doctor Who dinners toeing the line of legality? Probably trampling it with a steamroller. But if we didnt try to generate excitement with our group, I think the impact would be felt over there. I'm hardly naive enough to think that we're not being watched somehow.

    We're the best evangelists for the show over here that they have, better than any advertising dollar they could spend. They're not losing money by what we do. Those folks are still glued to BBC America, PBS, and "Sifffee" and getting that exposure as well. And do we have some buying power.

    Should they jail us or knight us?

  2. Howdy, Patrick; thanks for stopping by! I hope you'll like the podcast in a day or two.

    I don't think the Beeb is hurt directly by fans outside the U.K. watching first-run episodes "through other means." I do think it's an open question, though, whether that helps or harms the other networks like Sighfy who buy the rights to air Doctor Who stateside. On the one hand, it builds interest — on the other hand, every person who downloads instead of watching is less likely to watch. That could depress the ratings and the value of advertising space. If a network were to wind up paying less for Doctor Who rights because they don't think they'll make as much in ad revenue, I don't think licensing could make it up.

    CBC has apparently given up Doctor Who to the SPACE channel in Canada. Is that bad news for the BBC? I dunno.

    One thing — if SlyFly or anyone else wants to make the most of every potential viewer, in a world when complete episode spoilers are on Wikipedia within seconds of U.K. transmission and complete episodes are downloadable within hours, they MUST strike a deal just the way BBC America did with Torchwood S3, and air the episodes the SAME DAY as in the U.K. Not a couple of weeks later; the SAME DAY.

    But I don't think the BBC would "jail" fans. Heck, it's possible that RTD namechecked one of the popular UK encoders in "Partners in Crime"….

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