Doctor Who exclusive: Matt Smith is a hit with children and middle classes

The critics say new Who is too scary and complex for youngsters - RadioTimes.com investigates...

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Doctor Who exclusive: Matt Smith is a hit with children and middle classes
Written By
Tim Gallagher

Matt Smith is the most popular Doctor with young viewers and the middle classes in the new era, an exclusive RadioTimes.com analysis can reveal.

Our study of Doctor Who ratings and demographic data shows a significant increase in young viewers since the programme rebooted with Christopher Eccleston in 2005. 

During Eccleston's tenure, children aged 4-15 made up just 15.6 per cent of Doctor Who's viewers. In six years that figure has risen to 19 per cent for Matt Smith. 

The 16-25 age group has also enjoyed growth, increasing its share by 25 per cent - from 7 per cent of the audience in 2005 to 9 per cent today.

Perhaps Douglas Adams was right when he said, while script editing the programme, that the challenge of Doctor Who is to make it simple enough for adults and complicated enough for children. Critics have said that the plots of some recent episodes have been so difficult to follow that they have been leaving some younger viewers baffled. But the ratings show that head writer Steven Moffat knows his young audience best.

Indeed, it's not children, but older viewers who are turning their back on the Doctor. Since 2005, the over-65 share of the audience has reduced from 15 per cent to just 11 per cent of Matt Smith's viewers. So it seems it's fans schooled on first Time Lord William Hartnell, who arrived on our screens back in 1963, who are most sceptical about the current team.

Smith is also attracting a different class of audience - Whovians are getting younger, but they're also getting posher...

Christopher Eccleston had a large working-class (DE) audience that made up more than 28 per cent of his viewers. Two Doctors later and that number has fallen to 23 per cent for Matt Smith. But it seems the upper-middle and middle classes have taken to Smith. Just 23 per cent of Eccleston's audience were AB, whereas 27 per cent of Matt Smith's audience are today. 

It's difficult to compare viewing figures for the three most recent Doctors owing to the increasing popularity of catch-up services. But the consolidated television ratings show Christopher Eccleston's average audience was 7.95 million. This rose to 8.33 million viewers per episode for David Tennant, while Matt Smith is watched by 7.66 million. 

But these figures do not include the number of views Doctor Who receives on BBC iPlayer. The Beeb tells us that it can't provide an episode-by-episode breakdown of on-demand figures, but the show is one of the most viewed on catch-up and BBC iPlayer's popularity has grown by millions over the past few years. Last season's opening episode The Eleventh Hour earned 1.65 million views on iPlayer after spending several months online.

So, what have we learned?

In short: kids love Doctor Who more than ever, especially middle-class ones - older and working-class audiences are on the wane.

The challenge of "winning" the live timeslot will continue for Who, but it's in good shape online, and with every series a new crop of fans grow to love it.

A story of change indeed, but certainly reports of Doctor Who's death appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

 

The figures quoted span the period from Rose, the first episode of the rebooted Doctor Who in 2005, to Day of the Moon, the latest episode of the current season for which full and final data is available. 

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