Current Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi has been critical of the BBC’s scheduling of the hit TV show on Saturday evenings, going as far as to call its treatment as being “a pawn” in the key weekend ratings’ war. Viewing the programme as family entertainment, he does not believe that a BBC1 slot after 8pm is hitting the mark for its target audience.

Capaldi and Moffat critical

His outspoken comments have been mirrored by similar thoughts expressed by both Steven Moffat (executive producer) and one of the show’s writers, Mark Gatiss. This weekend’s airing was typical of recent weeks for the ninth series (since its revival in 2005), as the show began after Strictly Come Dancing at 8pm and finished shortly before 9pm.

Earlier episodes had been aired as late as 8:25pm.

Aired too late for family viewing

For Capaldi that is at least half an hour too late in the day for many of the show’s potential fans to watch it all the way through live. The Scottish actor opined that many “kids and families love it” and want to “watch it together” but aren’t been given the opportunity to do so. They can of course catch it at a later date, watching it as a family through a re-run on the iPlayer but you get his basic point.

BBC and ITV ratings’ war

Clearly the Saturday night Television battle between BBC1 and ITV is having a bearing on the timing. With ITV putting out their big hope The X Factor also at 8pm, the BBC seem keen to pit the long-running science fiction show in direct opposition.

That allows their smash success Strictly to go out slightly earlier and scoop the viewers then.

BARB figures back decision

It’s hard to question the BBC’s thinking, judging by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) figures. The latest available headline numbers indicated that Strictly had almost three million more viewers than The X Factor last weekend, continuing its recent dominance over Simon Cowell’s music vehicle.

Strictly still dominant

Strictly was watched by around 9.17 million viewers from 6:30pm, significantly higher than the 6.29 million tuning in for ITV’s music show (although a further 261k caught it on ITV + 1). Both shows were markedly higher in number terms than Doctor Who’s 4.22 million, perhaps justifying Capaldi’s belief that the timing is not helping his show’s chances.

Good old days for Doctor Who

By comparison, back in 2013 the 50th anniversary show for Doctor Who saw viewing numbers swell to well in excess of 10 million viewers. That was still below the consistent draw of Strictly but comfortably exceeded The X Factor’s appeal at the time.

Of course “The Day of the Doctor” was a special (‘must not miss’) event for fans of the Doctor, with Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt all featuring in the main storyline. Capaldi and the ever popular former Doctor Tom Baker also made highly effective cameo appearances on the show, adding additional credibility and a touch of nostalgia.